No Madness Memphis
First Memphis loses one hometown kid, Nick King, in March. After that tremor, the 7.5 on the richter scale shakes the foundation of the program with the announcement that hometown NBA prospect, Austin Nichols, will also leave Memphis. A move yours truly predicted would happen last November. Also, within the last couple of weeks we have come to realize just how dire that Memphis recruiting has become. And now, Midnight Madness has been canceled. Whats next? No more rides at the fair?
Josh Pastner made the announcement Wednesday morning that the program will replace Midnight Madness with a fan appreciation day. Last year fans were charged five dollars to attend Midnight Madness at FedEx Forum. Pastner states they would like to make the event more fan friendly, personable and free. This will be the first time Midnight Madness will not take place in the Pastner era at Memphis.
This will also be the first time in a long time that I can remember Midnight Madness not taking place. I can remember Memphis holding Midnight Madness since prior to the Dejuan Wagner era. I can remember it rocking out a jam-packed Mid-South Coliseum. And the Tigers were not an NCAA tournament team back then, but the event was huge. It’s just what the big boys do.
Midnight Madness is that moment that fans put last year behind them, and look forward to the season ahead. It is not about celebrating last years success, it is about being as wildly optimistic as you can be. Fans want see what the players are all about, and celebrate a new edition of Tiger Basketball. They come out because Tiger Basketball is the biggest thing in the city, or should I say, was the biggest thing in the city.
There are also more reasons to put on an event like this other than strictly fan entertainment value. Perhaps the biggest reason of them all. Recruiting. A lot of your major programs even have their Midnight Madness festivities broadcast live on TV. Memphis has as well in the past. It is another recruiting tool. It’s basically a nationally televised pep rally saying hey, look how awesome we are. But maybe Memphis isn’t even sitting at the big boy recruiting table anymore.
Here is an excerpt from an Athlon Sports article less than a year ago where Josh Pastner talks about the importance of Midnight Madness to recruiting…
2. Midnight Madness: It’s all about recruiting
In college basketball, there are two types of madness. There’s the one that comes in March, with fairy tale upsets and countless office brackets. And then there’s the madness that comes before the season starts — in the form of a glorified practice.
Schools all over, from Kentucky to Memphis, kick off the college basketball season with a preseason practice in their home venues, giving fans a free and early look at the upcoming season’s team. But Big Blue Madness, Memphis Madness, and events like them aren’t just for fans; typically, that weekend serves as the program’s biggest recruiting event of the year.
Memphis, for example, hosts anywhere from 20 to 25 recruits on both official and unofficial visits every year for Memphis Madness. Which is why Memphis coach Josh Pastner does whatever he can to make sure FedEx Forum is packed out.
“It’s been a great tool for us,” Pastner says. “It works because of the crowd support we get. The place is sold out. It’s an overflowing crowd. It’s a fire hazard in the FedEx Forum (because of the crowd). That’s why it works. We’re so fortunate to have that support and passion from the fan base.”
It’s little more than a pep rally, but for recruits visiting that weekend, it’s a perfect window into what he can expect if he enrolls at the school.
So we have already seen a lot of players transfer from Memphis, but now we are taking away one of the biggest tools to make them want to enroll here in the first place? Even at a time when recruiting is suffering, and appears to be declining? But maybe this is more Josh’s speed. A fan appreciation day instead of basketball. An event where he can get out with the people, mingle, kill them with smiles and hugs, and keep their minds as far away from the court as possible. If Midnight Madness feels like it’s no longer necessary or a burden, then maybe March Madness is too. Maybe this current basketball staff is not sure how to do Midnight Madness. Maybe at this point, I’m not the least bit surprised.
First off, no one made you charge fans last year. While you must have a ticketing system so that you don’t have 27,000 people trying to pour into FedEx Forum at once, the tickets are free. And the fans do not need or want a concert by Rick Ross. They’re not there for a concert and never have been. Save your money. You can also do all the interaction you want with the fans a couple hours before Midnight Madness. Sign autographs, hand out cake, whatever you want to do to show the fans your appreciation. Nothing is preventing you from doing that now. But the event needs to be about showcasing Memphis basketball. Again, something this current basketball staff is failing to do.
Let me speak to the next Memphis basketball coach for a minute and tell you what hardcore Memphis Tiger basketball fans want from a Midnight Madness. We want our players to put on a show. We want to see an up down scrimmage game. We would also like to see a player dunk contest. It’s about that building exploding with every dunk and the wooos’ pouring through the crowd with every fancy dish or drained three. That is Memphis Tiger basketball, and that is Memphis Madness!
What are your thoughts on Memphis deciding to cancel the tradition of Midnight Madness? Let us know below.
Brandon Reid covers NCAAB and the Memphis Tigers for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid