LEXINGTON, Ky. --- As has become tradition, the Kentucky Wildcats tip off the new basketball season with "Midnight Special," an event-filled evening at Memorial Coliseum. For those arriving early, the festivities begin at 7 p.m. when the UK volleyball team plays host to Alabama in an important Southeastern Conference battle.
Following the match, doors will be open for Madness at 10 p.m. with the event beginning at 10:30 p.m. Fans should plan to arrive early due to new security measures and a number of homecoming events in the area that could affect traffic flow. The night will include games and contests with prizes for all the winners. The UK band, cheerleaders and pom squad also will be performing.
The women's basketball team will be introduced at 11:45 p.m. and Big Blue fans will catch their first glimpse of the new Wildcats including four new freshmen at 12:01 a.m., marking the first day practice can officially begin.
A total of 6,500 tickets were distributed last Saturday morning in less than an hour. Nearly 1,500 tickets to the event were issued that morning via UK's official website. The event will be broadcast on the UKTV Network.
The Birth of Midnight Madness
Former UK coach Joe B. Hall started Midnight Madness at the University of Kentucky in 1982. According to Hall, he was looking for an idea to create more excitement for his 1982-83 squad. So they invited the fans in for team introductions and a scrimmage at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 15, 1982. Madness has now grown at a tremendous pace while also spreading to college and high school programs across the nation. Lefty Driesell, currently the coach at James Madison, is credited with conducting the first Midnight Madness when he was the head coach at Maryland in 1971.
Midnight Madness Highlights
When Midnight Madness started in 1982, it was called "Midnight Special." More than 8,500 fans attended that first event in 12,000-seat Memorial Coliseum. Admission was somewhat easier then -- those still arriving near the stroke of 12 a.m. had no problem getting a seat. But the seed of growth had been planted.
1983 -- More than 10,000 supporters arrived to watch a highly rated Kentucky team led by Sam Bowie, Melvin Turpin and Kenny Walker. That team went on to a Final Four finish.
1984 -- Introductions were in order as a new troop of fresh-faced Wildcats took the floor after the graduations of Bowie, Turpin, Dickey Beal, Tom Heitz and Jim Master.
1985 -- The Coliseum was rocking as first-year coach Eddie Sutton ushered in a new era.
1986 -- By the time the band started pounding out the fight song at 11:30 p.m., the fire marshal had already ordered the doors closed at 9:50 p.m., leaving hundreds of fans outside. Inside, more than 12,500 fans caught the first glimpse of super-frosh Rex Chapman and the Wildcats.
1989 -- Rick Pitino was introduced for the first time to a capacity crowd of more than 8,700 (the Coliseum capacity dropped from 11,500 because of renovation). Fans were caught trying to sneak in the windows and any opening they could find.
1990 -- Lines began forming at 8:30 a.m. as nearly 10,000 fans helped Kentucky celebrate a "Big Blue New Year."
1991 -- Fans lined up 36 hours in advance as the Cats were "Back in the Spotlight," eligible for postseason play for the first time in the Pitino era. Doors were closed 45 minutes after they opened, the earliest ever. All four recruits who attended Madness that year -- Rodrick Rhodes, Jared Prickett, Tony Delk and Walter McCarty -- verbally committed to Kentucky the next week.
1992 -- "Big Boo Madness - A Monster Bash" fell on Halloween night since the NCAA had moved the start of practice back to Nov. 1. Once again, doors closed only 45 minutes after they opened, as a capacity crowd watched Jamal Mashburn and company usher in the new season.
1993 -- The first fans arrived on Wednesday -- three days early -- and at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 29, the Cats were "Rockin' after Midnight" as a popular senior foursome -- Travis Ford, Rodney Dent, Jeff Brassow and Gimel Martinez -- led the 1993-94 team into action.
1994 -- The father and son combination of Robert and Ronald Vallandingham of Smithland, Ky., formerly of New Albany, Ind., arrived on Oct. 10 -- a full five days early. Coach Pitino was the headline attraction. Playing to the theme "Born To Be Wild," Pitino arrived in the gym dressed in leather driving a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
1995 -- Wally Clark of Lexington was determined to be "first in line" and arrived 17 days early. The preseason No. 1 team in the nation was introduced with the premier of "Cat Fan Forever." Seniors Walter McCarty and Tony Delk swooped down on ropes from high above dressed as "Cat"man and Robin.
1996 -- Clark parked himself by the front door on Sept. 10, a full 38 days prior to Big Blue Madness. In the pre-Madness celebration, the "Back to Tradition" theme honored the championship teams, including the defending national champions, as well as former stars.
1997 -- Tickets were passed out five days early a Monday morning and were gone within the first 75 minutes for "Late Night with the Cats." It was the official introduction of Coach Tubby Smith to the Wildcat faithful, as he made his appearance high above the floor in the second deck.
1998 The Wildcats, playing to the theme, "The Main Event," were dressed in their favorite professional wrestling outfits and introduced down through the UK crowd. Later, they celebrated their NCAA Championship from the previous season by unveiling a new championship banner on the Coliseum's "Wall of Champions."
1999 The tickets were again distributed a week early and vanished in 27 minutes for "America's Team of the Century." Making a very special, and surprise, appearance was newly crowned Miss America, Heather Renee French, from Maysville, Ky. To thunderous applause, Coach Tubby Smith escorted her to center court.
2000 Tickets were offered on the Internet for the first time and all 700 were distributed in 13 minutes. The remaining 8,000 were gone in 10 minutes to those waiting in line. "Survivor," a take-off from the popular television show that summer, was the theme for the annual event.
2001 A week before the event, all 8,000 of the tickets were gone in less than an hour after Internet and window distributions. The Wildcats celebrated the 20th anniversary of the event by revisiting the "Midnight Special," theme, celebrating the last two decades of Madness.