Jayhawks play to packed house in Midnight Madness
The lights dimmed inside 55-year-old Allen Fieldhouse and the
big crowd fell silent. With rapt attention, about 16,000 people
watched the giant video board replay the pep talk coach Bill Self
gave Kansas before it played Memphis in the 2008 NCAA title
Then crowd watched the brief, emotional speech he delivered to
the players after they had come from behind and beaten Memphis in
overtime for the national championship.
”We are the best team in the richest tradition school of all
time,” he said.
Then, to tumultuous applause, Self walked slowly onto the court,
encircled by a spotlight and holding a microphone.
Basketball season had officially begun for Kansas, with another
sellout crowd for Midnight Madness, or as Jayhawk fans like to call
it, ”Late Night in the Phog.”
Self had to wait a moment to begin speaking because the crowd
came to its feet and gave him a standing ovation.
”Tonight for 26 years in a row we’ve packed the fieldhouse for
Late Night,” he said. ”It shows why this is the best place to
play and the best place to coach in America, right here. I’m
excited for the women’s team. They’re athletic and they’re going to
be very, very good. And to be quite honest with you, so will we.
Winning a national championship changed all our lives. We need to
cut down nets again in 2011.”
The venerable fieldhouse was packed to the rafters, as usual,
for the annual rite that marks the beginning of the sport which has
long defined this institution. The Jayhawks even have their own
name for the event, harkening back to Forrest ”Phog” Allen, their
legendary coach – ”Late Night in the Phog.”
In 26 years, the Jayhawks have turned this night into something
akin to a Las Vegas light show, with lasers, smoke, pulsating music
and reminders everywhere of the history and tradition of a school
that was once coached by James Naismith, the inventor of the
On hand were about 16 recruits, including three high school
seniors, that Self wanted to immerse in the tradition and passion
of Kansas hoops. Josh Selby, last year’s No. 1 recruit in the
nation and now a Kansas freshman, said Late Night in the Phog was
what hooked him.
”A lot of kids growing up want to put on a Kansas uniform
because of the history of it,” said the 6-foot-2 point guard from
Baltimore. ”Trust me – if you’re a high school player and you’re
here for Late Night, this is where you want to play.”
No doubt with an eye toward the prospects scattered among the
crowd, the video board also played testimonials from every
ex-Jayhawk now in the NBA, professing their love for the school
that put them on the road to the big time.
Adding to the excitement, this year’s team enters the season
only four wins from the all-time record for consecutive victories
in Allen Fieldhouse. If they win their first four, they will break
the record of 62 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
The Jayhawks ended the night with a 20-minute scrimmage,
including Selby, who is awaiting clearance from the NCAA for
permission to play.
The crowd cheered when master of ceremonies Scot Pollard, a
former KU star, noted Kansas had won the last six Big 12 titles. It
booed when Pollard noted that conference coaches in this year’s
preseason poll ”picked K-State to win it.”
Later, the crowd roared when Self returned to the court as
Vanilla Ice, dressed head-to-toe in a gold jump suit and wearing a
blue Kansas hat backward.
”Yo, Allen Fieldhouse, what’s up tonight?” he said.