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Author Topic: Innocence lost: UK Madness evolved from quaint novelty to planned mania  (Read 126 times)

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It was 1982. But in Madness time, it was Precambrian.

Friday will mark Kentucky basketball’s 35th Madness celebration.

No hype. “We put notices out in the dorms,” then-UK Coach Joe B. Hall recalled last week. “We were just doing it for the students.”

Committee of 101 members, faculty and children of faculty were also invited.

UK says the modern hoop-alooza that is Big Blue Madness costs about $300,000 each year to produce. In 1982, the only expense was $100 in $1 bills used in a dash-for-cash contest on the court.

“I think I gave the $100,” Hall said with a laugh.

Roger Harden, a freshman guard that season, agreed that the original Madness had an innocence about it.

“Exactly,” he said. “That’s the word: innocence. It was genuine and organic. I’m glad I played then.”

The first UK Madness was in Memorial Coliseum. After the dash-for-cash, the players appeared once the clock struck midnight (the NCAA permitted preseason practices to begin on a set date; midnight conveyed the program’s eagerness to get started). Another freshman, Kenny Walker, thrilled the students with flying dunks during the layup line.

The Madness event, an idea launched by Lefty Driesell at Maryland in 1971, lost its innocence within a decade or so. Bernie Morgan, a former Kansas player, trademarked the phrase “Midnight Madness.” He would be owed a royalty if “Midnight Madness” appeared on clothing.

Morgan, now retired and living in the Kansas City area, said last week that he got into the habit of trademarking his ideas while working for Hallmark Cards.

Through the years, Kentucky adopted variations on that Midnight Madness name: Midnight Special in 1982, Big Boo Madness in 1992 (Jamal Mashburn, also known as The Monster Mash, was the featured attraction), Rockin’ after Midnight in 1993 and, finally, Big Blue Madness.

Harden, now the coach at Williamstown High School, accepts that Madness no longer is so innocent. Even on the high school level, Madness is “staged” in a “controlled environment,” he said.

UK moved its Madness from Memorial Coliseum to Rupp Arena in 2005.

By then, Madness had long since become a recruiting tool.

Hall has attended all but one of UK’s Madness celebrations. He has watched the changes. He does not insist it was better at the beginning. It was merely different.

“The first one was so pure and innocent,” he said. “Now, it’s a big recruiting thing. It’s about impressing the recruits.”

Apparently, no one thought in 1982 to use Madness as a recruiting tool.

“It’s bigger in content,” Hall said of the modern Madness, “but also intent.”
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