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The Midnight Special

Let the madness begin.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal Matt Stone/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

October 1982, the University of Kentucky hosted an event in Memorial Coliseum called “The Midnight Special.”

On that mild October evening, at the stroke of midnight, 8,500 Wildcat faithful poured into the stands to watch the Kentucky basketball team kick off their basketball preseason. The initial idea was “borrowed” by Coach Joe B. Hall, remembering a gimmick first used by Coach Lefty Driesell, which would allow fans to come to watch practice on the first day allowable under NCAA rules. It helped to create hype and excitement for a new season.

The Midnight Special has evolved into what is known today as Big Blue Madness and once again, we find ourselves getting ready for another year of the madness to begin. Over the years, The Midnight Special and Big Blue Madness have provided Big Blue Nation a number of memorable events.

Kentucky coaches have been introduced officially to fans at this event. The year Rick Pitino was introduced, students and fans were caught sneaking in through the windows of the Coliseum. Big Boo Madness occurred once when the NCAA changed the start of the preseason to November 1st – which meant the doors opened on Halloween night.

Tubby Smith took the Cats back to the future by arriving in a DeLorean. The John Wall Dance, notably and arguably the most famous dance in college basketball history was put on display for the first time. And of course in 2010, Enes “Freedom” Kanter stole the show with his Undertaker entrance – in what was a thrilling and arguably the best single person WWE entrance in the history of the event.

As the beginning of a new season looms upon us, fans are excited after a very successful summer tour in the Bahamas. The promise of the exit of the checkerboard shorts, mirrored after a look sported by rival Tennessee, is also a welcomed addition. (As a side over 60 % of fans polled “hated” the checkerboard look)

This year, post pandemic, there were some fans able to camp out in anticipation of the madness event, but most importantly, the highlight is getting a chance to see a brand-new edition of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Head Coach John Calipari returns key players from a 26-8 squad, he will throw into the mix additional five-star talent, and he has a team that right now is projected in the preseason as a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Preseason expectations mean little, but there is a lot to be excited about with this new team.

While some scoffed at what was called “The Revenge Tour’ by some last year. The success of the previous team was ignored by many due to their fizzling out early during the NCAA Tournament. But if last year was about getting a bit of revenge and some swagger back, which they did, this new season may very well be “The Revival Tour.”

The pieces are in place early to climb the ladder and perhaps have people dreaming about new banners in the rafters at Rupp. Again, preseason expectations can become letdowns quickly, but it is easy to get excited about this bunch. Even former coach and now rival coach Kenny Payne has a nickname for the new team. X-Men.

Leading the charge is reigning national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe. The God-fearing warrior will be joined by some additional heroes with superpowers on the court that will hopefully blend and compliment at a level even higher than early expectations. Jacob Toppin, Sahvir Wheeler, Daimion Collins, Cason Wallace, the five-star incoming freshman from Texas, Chris Livingston, and more will give the fans plenty of opportunities to cheer, yell, study, critique, coach from their armchairs…and well… suffer from Big Blue Madness as a new season begins.

Let the madness begin…it does this week- and although it doesn’t happen at midnight anymore, it is still very special.