The GW Athletic Department is changing the structure of its preseason basketball kickoff and is leaning toward canceling Midnight Madness. Though no plans have been finalized, Athletic Director Jack Kvancz said he would like to replace the hoopla of past celebrations with a more basketball-related event.
Midnight Madness is a decade-old tradition at GW celebrating the first official men’s and women’s basketball practices, typically on Friday night of Colonials Weekend, formerly Family Weekend, in early October.
But recent years have seen less basketball and more fireworks. This past year, teams were not introduced until about 20 minutes after midnight because outside acts took longer than anticipated, causing leading GW administrators to rethink the tradition.
“The (side acts) are pretty cool, but the basketball part isn’t what it used to be,” Kvancz said. “It looks good on paper, but when midnight comes we’re not even on the court yet, the audience is saying, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.'”
Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said that because the outside acts take so long, crowds leave before the teams are introduced and that a new format would tailor more to the basketball purist.
“The exodus has created a concern,” he said. “People are not sure if it’s the right way to launch the basketball season. If there are 400 students that are hardcore basketball fans and we could give them a better program, I would rather do that than give 5,000 students a shallow, token introduction to the program.”
While plans are still in the early stages of development, Kvancz said he would like to organize an open practice for both teams on Saturday at the Health and Wellness Center instead of the traditional Friday night festivities.
“What we’re going to do is have a Saturday practice that people will be invited to come to, have a juice or a cup of coffee and watch the practice,” he said. “It will be an opportunity for people who are really basketball fans to come watch.”
SAC officials said they were not consulted with the decision but said they will work with whatever changes occur. Student Activities Specialist and head cheerleading coach said they will still do everything we can to promote whatever event takes the place of Midnight Madness.”
When told of the possible cancellation of Midnight Madness, students supported changes to the format of the event but said they do not think it should be cut entirely.
“If we’re trying to foster campus spirit, (canceling it) would be a step in the wrong direction,” sophomore Seth Linnick said. “They should reorganize it to make it more effective. Make it more about the players than the entertainment.”
Others were less enthusiastic about keeping Midnight Madness.
“It’s really nothing special,” sophomore Mark Scher said. “Maybe if they made it more spectacular I would go, but otherwise I don’t see the point.”
Kvancz said he was not sure how students would react and would be open to other ideas including coaches’ opinions.
Men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs said he has not had much time to think about Kvancz’s proposal and that the lateness of this year’s event did not bother him.
“I happen to like it because it’s a good thing for the fans,” he said. “I just think logistically, when you’re doing something that extravagant, you’re going to run overtime.”
Women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown said he would like to see a more basketball-focused event but that he would comply with whatever decision is made.
Chernak said former men’s coach Mike Jarvis “was never thrilled with the event. He went along because we twisted his arm.”
But players said they would rather not see Midnight Madness go.
“I’d be kind of disappointed,” sophomore guard T.J. Thompson said. “Because it’s like the one night we have to just go out and have fun before things get serious.”
But Kvancz said “basketball just doesn’t draw you anymore. Years ago, that’s what you went for. Now it’s a thing of the past.”