October 15, 1971, was a landmark day in basketball history, not only for the University of Maryland but also for colleges and universities across the country. Practice for the 1971-72 season officially began at the stroke of midnight on October 14, and three minutes later, UMD head coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell had his team out in Byrd Stadium to run a mile around the stadium’s track.
Lit by the headlights of a few cars and under the watchful eyes of a small group of fans, future Maryland stars Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, and John Lucas and their teammates took off around the track, trying to beat the clock by running 1.5 miles in under 10 minutes.
Coach Driesell, wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a big cigar, cheered the players on and watched their times carefully. Asked about the consequences a player would face if he did not complete the distance in the required time, Driesell answered “If they don’t, they run it each day until they do [but] during the day. I ain’t getting up this early again.”
This initial midnight run has since evolved into a nation-wide celebration of the first official day of basketball practice, known today as “Midnight Madness.” Many of these events are now regularly televised, including the Terps’, though few are held at the witching hour. The annual fall event usually features dramatic player introductions, a scrimmage, and a slam dunk contest. In recent years, women’s teams have also begun to participate, sharing equal billing with their male counterparts. Hard to believe that this ‘hoopla’ began with a chilly time trial in the middle of an October night 47 years ago.
The “Midnight Mile” returns this year the night of October 15, as the 2018-19 Terps join students at the Kehoe Track and Field Complex for a midnight run of their own. More details about this event can be found here. Come on out and help them mark this special day in UMD Men’s Basketball history!
This is the first in a series of blog posts the University Archives will be featuring as part of the commemoration of the 100th season of Maryland men’s basketball with our colleagues in Intercollegiate Athletics. Visit the #Terps100 website for more information about and to participate in the celebration.
Follow Terrapin Tales throughout the season for additional features on landmark days in Maryland men’s basketball history. Next in line is Sunday, December 2, when we mark the 63rd anniversary of the first game in Cole Field House.