As the hours lead up to midnight on Friday, Oct. 17, the Smith Center will be packed with students, parents and alumni. But unlike in the past decade, the arena will be filled with Whoopi Goldberg fans instead of GW basketball fans.
Citing the loss of a basketball focus and increased hoopla from side acts, the University decided to cancel Midnight Madness late last spring and will feature a comedy act by Goldberg in its traditional Friday night slot on Colonials Weekend.
“We start at eight or nine o’clock, and that’s a long time (to wait),” Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said. “If it was just basketball and we started at 11, then you build up to a crescendo at midnight. But we did all kinds of things before midnight and while that’s great, it became more of a student function than a basketball function.”
While no basketball kick-off event has been planned for the purpose Midnight Madness once served, the idea of an open preseason practice for both teams on a Saturday has been discussed. This would be a more basketball-oriented event geared toward the more die-hard Colonials fan.
“That’s something that we’ve talked about,” men’s head coach Karl Hobbs said, “because the student body has been great to us, and we want to give back to them and have them be intimately involved with our team. And that would be a nice way for them to get to see the new guys and get familiar with the players.”
An additional problem with Midnight Madness, Kvancz said, was the inevitable focus on the men over the women because of the event’s format. Traditionally, after team introductions, the men’s team would make a dunk line while the women’s team would shoot.
“All I’m interested in after sitting in the stands for three hours is dunking,” he said. “That’s takes five minutes, and the women can’t dunk. So we have an NCAA (Tournament) women’s team who is very, very good, and nobody’s paying attention to them.”
The idea of open practices, however, would put the focus on every facet of basketball and teamwork, and Kvancz suggested the teams could scrimmage each other and showcase a wider variety of skills.
“Anything we can do to get people talking and thinking about basketball and our players,” women’s head coach Joe McKeown said. “Whether it’s an event geared toward students or season ticket holders or both. We need to do something to make up for Midnight Madness.”
Midnight Madness had been held on the Friday night of Colonials Weekend each year because the following day marks the first day NCAA teams are allowed to practice together, making team introductions and festivities at midnight a tradition on campuses across the country.
But in past years at GW, the teams were not introduced until after midnight. The numerous side acts ran long, pushing player introductions back past 12:15 a.m. The late night for players also caused problems for Saturday’s first real practice.
“It’s after twelve, the players have to practice the next day, but they’re not getting to bed until two or three in the morning,” Kvancz said. “If the fans stayed, then I think it’s a great event. But it’s 12:15 and students have places to go. So the players see their fannies instead of their eyes.”
Robert Chernak, senior vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, oversaw the event. He was on vacation last week and could not be reached for comment.
Nicole Macchione, the Student Activities Specialist and Spirit Coordinator who ran Midnight Madness, said she will be meeting with Chernak after Welcome Week to start planning its replacement.
-Brian Costa contributed to this report.