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Midnight Madness returns in fall

The USF basketball team will attempt to return to March Madness for the first time in a decade this season. And for the first time in two years, the Bulls’ quest will begin with Midnight Madness.

Student Government announced plans last week to hold Midnight Madness, a staged exhibition that marks the first day college basketball teams are allowed to begin practice, on Oct. 12 at the Sun Dome.

“Right now we’re in the early planning stages,” student government vice president Dave Mincberg said. “But there are going to be a lot of new traditions started. It’s going to be a very, very, very exciting evening.”

According to men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg, Midnight Madness is a way to generate fan interest for both students and the community.

“This will be a great way to kick off the season,” he said. “We want to use Midnight Madness as a place to start from and to create momentum heading in to the season.”

Midnight Madness, which is held at most major universities with successful basketball programs, consists of events ranging from dunk exhibitions to fan interaction and serves as a time for the hype surrounding the upcoming season to begin.

“There’s going to be a little bit of everything,” Mincberg said. “There’s going to be some basketball events, a lot of fan participation and a lot of free giveaways.”

It is unclear as to why Midnight Madness was postponed for two years. According to Greenberg, it had to do with the expense involved with staging such an event which he said “costs about $7,000.” Mincberg said he “didn’t know why it was stopped,” but it probably had to do with a “lack of communication.”

Greenberg praised student government president Mike Griffin and Mincberg for their efforts in pushing for the return of Midnight Madness.

“Dave and Mike have been absolutely magnificent,” he said. “They are extremely enthusiastic and have been very supportive.”

Although planning is still in the formative stages, Mincberg, who attended a Midnight Madness at Maryland, said the event at USF will consist of similar events as the Terrapins’ version – and a little more. He said there wil probably be scrimmages, dunk contests, players doing skits and some surprise events.

“It’s going to be a very social atmosphere and a very good time,” Mincberg said.

Although much of the focus for Midnight Madness will be on the men’s team, Mincberg said the women’s team will also be a part of the scheduled events.

“The men’s basketball team will probably have a bigger role,” he said. “But we definitely want to involve the women’s team.”

And after a dismal 4-24 season for the women’s team, coach Jose Fernandez said the return of Midnight Madness is a great way to drum up support and introduce a host of new players to the fans.

“I am just really excited about the opportunity of having Midnight Madness on campus,” Fernandez said. “The women’s basketball team will have seven new players coming into the program. We signed a top 25 recruiting class and have five of the top 200 (high school) seniors in the country. And having a transfer from Florida International and another transfer from Florida gives us a bright future for the women’s basketball program.”

Mincberg said he hopes the hoopla surrounding Midnight Madness will help to interest fans not only for the event, but throughout the course of the year.

“It’s going to basically be the catalyst for what’s going to be maybe the best year in the history of USF basketball,” he said. “We’re not just excited about this one event. We’re excited about the whole season.”

Greenberg hopes Midnight Madness will spark more interest from the student body. Last year, the men’s team averaged only slightly more than 5,100 fans at home. The Sun Dome seats 10,411.

“I’ve said it from day one that in order for (basketball) to be a success here the students need to embrace it and have it become part of the day-to-day social calendar,” Greenberg said.

But Greenberg was quick to point out the return of Midnight Madness to open the season will not translate into wins throughout the year.

“The key to this is remembering (Midnight Madness) is just the beginning of the mission, not the end,” he said.

With the Bulls on the cusp of national recognition with the men’s team, Greenberg said the students have plenty of reasons to come out and support the team.

“We have the team to compete at the very highest level and we want to create an atmosphere at home, and this is the best schedule we’ve ever had at this university,” he said.

“I mean, look at the teams we have at home: Florida, Florida State, Cal, Cincinnati and Memphis.”