Time for Madness

Why we need to bring back Panther Madness

Next week, schools across the country will be starting up practice for the first time in the 2010-11 season.  It’s a time for optimism; like the NFL commercial, everyone from UCLA to Central Connecticut State is flying their flags.  Everybody’s undefeated.

At a lot of schools, the opening of practice means Midnight Madness, or whatever they’re calling it nowadays.  The term comes from the fact that practice begins at 12 am, and many schools would use the time as a giant pep rally on campus for their program.  Few schools still hold their Madness events at midnight, but they still hold them.  Here at Milwaukee, however, we’ve bucked the whole trend altogether, opting for an intra-squad scrimmage to show to our season-ticket holders a preview of the team.

Our last Panther Madness was in the beginning of the 2008-09 season, piggy-backed on the end of a volleyball game.  After a short concert by the Boogiemen, the men’s and women’s basketball team ran layup drills, leading into a short scrimmage and dunk contest.  The introduction of Pounce as a replacement for Victor E. Panther accompanied the concert.

It wasn’t a great success.  Student attendance was low; about 200 students came, but most had left after the volleyball game where they got their Panther Pack t-shirt.  There were good things to come out of it; Ryan Haggerty and Riley Walker both committed to the program shortly afterward, each obviously enjoying the night.  Overall, however, it was a failure, as Joe Allen was injured for the season during the layup drill and, as I said, attendance by the students was pretty low.

Following the season, the decision was made not to bring back Panther Madness.  It was an abject failure, and it didn’t do much to get people psyched for the season.

Guess what?  We need to bring it back.

Why would I come out in support of something that didn’t work the last time?  Well, for one thing, just because something fails once doesn’t mean it will fail again.  You have to look at how it went, see what went wrong, what went right, and fix the problems for the next time out.

The first problem was marketing.  Since it wasn’t a game, the students weren’t really notified of what was going on.  The occasional A-Frame on campus isn’t going to do anything.  There should have been posters papering campus.  Does it cost money?  Of course.  Does it let people know that the big show is coming?  Hell yeah it does.

Ask some of our biggest student fans who were freshmen that year, living in the dorms.  They were completely unaware of Panther Madness, because they didn’t hear about it.  It doesn’t matter if the marketing department did do something or didn’t; if students who turned out to be our biggest fans did not get into it, then we didn’t do it right.  There needs to be a presence in all of the dorms and the union, and everywhere in between.  I’ve never been kidding when I said we need to paint the campus black and gold, and I’m not kidding now.  If the students see Panthers around every corner, they’re more likely to check things out online because it seems important.

What about the event itself?  Well, for one, piggybacking on the back of a volleyball game was probably a bad idea.  By doing that, you drop the importance of the night and make it longer.  Kind of like, too much of a good thing; when the whole event goes from 7 to 11, students are more likely to grow weary and leave if the event lasts longer than a game.

As for the Boogiemen, I like them as much as the next Milwaukeean.  Eighties cover bands are awesome, but they belong at church festivals, not in front of students.  And while that means not having a band, it also means money paid to the band that we could use towards marketing the team, whether it’s for this event or for any of the great home games we have this season.
The real problem, of course, is that we tried to save money by satisfying everyone with one event.  And while students and season-ticket holding alumni and fans all deserve something, the fact of the matter is that each group cannot be satisfied by the same event.

Obviously, students are more interested in the volleyball, guys especially (oh come on, players on the team have told us to use the ‘sex appeal’ of good-looking girls in spandex shorts to get guy students at games).  Older fans might be pulled in by the Boogiemen, who definitely play an older generation’s music.

As far as basketball, students like the spectacle.  The dunk, the three-pointer, both of them are used in contests at such events everywhere.  Fans are more interested in the team itself, the way the players mesh and how good are they to begin with.
So, after pointing out some of the problems, this is my proposal:

Keep the intrasquad scrimmage.  Season-ticket holders deserve to have the relatively cheap sneak-peek at the players.  Fans get what they want to see: the team, without the fluff around it like a band or a volleyball game (not to say volleyball is fluff, but the majority of our basketball fans couldn’t care less about it).

Now, as I said, bring back Panther Madness.  It doesn’t need to be the first day of practice, just before the season starts and preferably a weekend night.
Why not have it at midnight?  Doing it on a Friday night at midnight does several things: one, it creates buzz around the event as something official that usually doesn’t happen this late.  Second, it takes students out of the house parties for a little while (or gets them to ‘pre-game’ for the festivities).

As for the event itself, nix the expensive rock group for the Panther Band.  Yeah you save money, but the basketball team is the show and should always be as such.

Replacing the scrimmage with a dunk contest and three-point contest, the students get the spectacle they’re looking for.  The last dunk contest was a bit weak, and not just because the players weren’t great: the contest took place after a scrimmage, and legs were tired.  Using “celebrity” judges like coach Jeter, Adrian Tigert and the new interim chancellor Michael Lovell gives an added bonus, and more time to pander to the crowd for cheers.

By opening up a three-point contest, you can let in the women’s players and increase crowd interest.  Tell me the students wouldn’t get behind a women’s basketball player as she took on a men’s player in the finals of the three-point contest.

The point is, the last time we did Panther Madness, it failed.  But as the old adage goes, try, try again.  Just give it a different twist this time.

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One Response

  1. Bring- it – back!!

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