Kennedy takes hiatus for health reasons
In what has become an annual event at Texas A&M, Maroon Madness signaled the start of practice in conjunction with Midnight Yell Practice at football's Kyle Field.
Both the men's and women's programs ran through drills on a temporary court Friday night, following the yell practice to roars from the crowd.
The only damper on the crystal clear night was the absence of first-year men's coach Billy Kennedy. He has taken a leave from the program while dealing with an undisclosed medical condition, the school announced Friday. Top assistant Glynn Cyprien conducted A&M's first practice earlier Friday in Reed Arena.
"Don't worry, I'll be back soon," Kennedy said in a release from A&M.
The release said Kennedy "will have a series of tests run and be evaluated by his physician before returning to lead the Aggie basketball program."
A&M hired Kennedy from Murray State in May to replace Mark Turgeon, who took over for the retired Gary Williams at Maryland. The Aggies were picked — along with Kansas — to win the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll.
The Aggies return 10 lettermen and three starters, including versatile guard Khris Middleton, a preseason All-Big 12 selection. Because of Kennedy's medical condition, no players or assistants were made available for interviews during or after Maroon Madness.
Meanwhile, the women's team celebrated their first national championship.
This season the Aggies were picked second in the Big 12 behind perennial power Baylor — just like last season.
"We have a lot of expectations for this season," forward Kelsey Bone said. "We're the defending national champions and we're picked second in the conference again? That serves as motivation."
Coach Gary Blair said he enjoys mixing the football tradition of yell practice and Maroon Madness.
"It just adds to the mystique of being an Aggie and the mystique of the 12th Man," Blair said.
The women return three starters: Tyra White, Sydney Carter and Adaora Elonu.
Friday night's event was attended by A&M president R. Bowen Loftin and Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, the Butkus Award winner last season and the No. 2 overall selection of the NFL draft out of A&M. Miller was to serve as honorary captain Saturday for the Baylor-A&M football game at Kyle Field.
This marks the final season for A&M in the Big 12. The school is entering the Southeastern Conference in July 2012.
Loftin, the catalyst behind the move to the SEC, wrapped up the event by dancing on the temporary court with the women's team.