What began over 40 years ago as a way for college coaches to begin working out their squads as soon as possible has become a celebration of college basketball. These days, every basketball fan knows Midnight Madness as the hoopla surrounding the official start of the college basketball season. The event is now the ultimate pep rally and team promotion. Midnight Madness has evolved into a tradition shared by hoops fans nationwide.
In the 1990s, following Rider's move to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, or MAAC, the event was dubbed "Midnight MAACness." Since then, buoyed by a distinct yearly theme, the event has become one of the most popular and highly anticipated events at the Lawrenceville campus.
Each year, the Department of Athletics, Student Government Association, Office of Campus Life, Student Entertainment Council and Emerging Leaders provide food, live entertainment, free giveaways, and spirit-filled activities.
"We have tried to become more and more elaborate each year, and the students have really responded to it," said Karin Torchia, associate director of athletics and senior women's administrator, who directs the event. "We used to invite the general public, but it has become so popular that we have had to limit it strictly to Rider students and staff, and even with that there is barely enough room in Alumni Gym to hold everyone."
Previous Midnight MAACness nights have included "Under the Big Top," featuring a circus theme, "MAACaritaville," featuring a laid-back, calypso-music feel, and "Fright Night," when the event happened to fall on a Friday the 13th and the Athletics Hall of Fame area was transformed into a haunted graveyard.
One year Alumni Gym, home of the Broncs, turned into the "Broncs' Zoo" for "Midnight MAACness Goes Bronc Wild," with opponents' animal mascots getting involved. MAACness even took on a Hollywood theme one year with "Lights, Camera, MAACtion." In 2011, the "Midnight MAACness Goes Galactic" theme showed the Bronc landing on the moon and placing a Rider flag.
More recently, the event has spilled beyond the confines of Alumni Gym, such as in 2008, when the Campus Mall took on the feel of a renaissance fair for "Midnight MAACness Goes Medieval."
"Midnight MAACness is the perfect way to kick off the basketball season," said Rider Head Men's Basketball Coach Kevin Baggett. "The whole campus comes alive at the start of basketball season and that makes our kids feel special. The support we receive from the campus community is unbelievable."
Annual festivities include performances by the cheerleaders and dance team, introduction of the men's and women's basketball teams and much more. On-the-court events typically include team introductions, a highlight video from last season, performances by the cheerleaders and dance team, and the always popular slam-dunk contest.
"Midnight MAACness is an event that brings the entire campus together," said Head Women's Basketball Coach Lynn Milligan. "The energy, support and excitement that encompass the night is electric. Our team and entire program look forward to the night and are thankful for the time and effort that everyone puts into the success of MAACness."