Thursday, July 12, 2001

Xavier drops Midnight Madness

School wants to start new tradition

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Xavier's Midnight Madness this year won't be at midnight, or any time on the date college basketball teams can begin practice.

        Saying it needed to put a fresh face on the tradition, XU has split the men's and women's ceremonies and planned them as evening events a week later.

        The move was made by the school's athletic officials to target a more family-friendly time. They say the Midnight Madness trend, in which an open practice is held at 12:01 a.m. on the first day allowable, is waning nationally.

        “It had its moment,” XU athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “The whole Midnight Madness thing took off on a wave, and I think that wave has crested.

        “ESPN used to do live cut-ins at a number of places, and that doesn't happen anymore. People have gotten away from it at a couple of places. We looked at it as far as what makes the most sense to us — are there better ways to accomplish a similar objective, to get people excited about the start of the season?”

        Practice annually begins on the Saturday closest to Oct.15, which this year is Oct.13. Instead of counting down the hours on Oct.12, XU has set a preliminary time of 7p.m. Oct.19 for its men's “Musketeer Madness.” The women would have their own event a different evening, probably Oct.20.

        The dates, times and schedules won't be finalized until after being presented to the Student Activities Council once school resumes in late August, said Greg Amodio, XU's assistant AD for marketing.

        “I kind of have mixed feelings,” said SAC chairman Scott Martz, 21, a senior-to-be from Indianapolis. “There's kind of that sense of anticipation to see the team practice the first time they can practice, and I think you'll see some students complain about (missing) that. But at the same time, there's an opportunity to expand that event, make it bigger and draw a bigger crowd, and maybe this change could do that.”

        Not all students will be blind-sided by the change. The idea originated from a report done by SAC members that included some polling of students. The report was given to Amodio and to Cynthia Bellinger, the SAC's faculty adviser.

        “It was students that brought the idea on campus six or seven years ago,” Bellinger said. “We're always looking at creative and new ways of enhancing the program.”

        An earlier start allows a longer look at the teams, Amodio said. Midnight Madness traditionally allows time only for a hurried 10-minute scrimmage; now there's talk of playing 40 minutes.

        “This way the people can get what they want out of it, which is to see how everyone looks,” Amodio said. “And it extends the teams an opportunity to get a week of practice under their belts. They'll likely look a little more sharp.”

        The event usually had drawn capacity crowds to Schmidt Fieldhouse, which seats just more than 2,000 people. Some fans were disappointed the debut showing in Cintas Center last fall drew only about 5,000, half of capacity.

        “If moving it gets more fans, more power to them,” said Greg Middendorf, 20, a junior-to-be from Southgate, Ky. “I would love to see that place packed.”

        Said Bobinski: “There's no money charged, so there's no financial incentive. But doing things on a Friday night at midnight crosses off some portion of the public that wants to attend it. We want to do it a time that's more family-friendly.”

        The women's team, which reached the Elite Eight this spring, previously had taken the court first at Midnight Madness. Bobinski said the women deserve equal billing.

        “They should not have to be perceived in any way as the preliminary act,” he said. “They've more than earned that opportunity (of their own ceremony).”


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