It appears that Midnight Madness at Florida has gone the way of the Great Pumpkin and the duck-billed platypus.
For the second straight year, Florida has scrapped the once annual mid-October basketball event, and from my understanding there are no plans to bring it back any time soon. Instead, Florida is planning a fan-player interactive event to be held the week of Gator Growl, before the homecoming game Oct. 25 against Kentucky.
Had the event outlived its usefulness? I just remember the night in October of 2005, before Joakim Noah and Al Horford and Corey Brewer became household names. There were maybe 4,000 fans in the O’Connell Center for Midnight Madness.
The next October, after Florida won the first of its new national titles, about 10,000 showed up to the O’Dome. Impressive, but it still wasn’t enough to fill the building.
To put it in perspective, Kentucky fills 24,000-seat Rupp Arena for Midnight Madness annually, no matter where the Cats finish in the standings. And if you don’t think that’s used against Florida in recruiting, then you’re probably still searching for that live video of Sasquatch on YouTube.
Mind you, I still think the fans and the students get shafted in this, but in the ultra-competitive world of recruiting, it is what it is. Many schools have cut Midnight Madness in recent years, some for recruiting reasons, others for lack of interest and others to simply to recoup a few extra hours of practice. At least Florida has amped up the home non-conference schedule a bit (home games against Bradley and North Carolina State). Still, it’s odd that a team coming off two recent national titles would abandon the event so quickly. Maybe it will come back. But I wouldn’t spend any extra time in the pumpkin patch waiting.
CONTRACT WATCH: On the subject of Great Pumpkins, we’re still eagerly awaiting Billy Donovan’s signed extension. You remember, the one Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley offered him in June of 2007.
To recap, Donovan and Foley agreed to terms on the six-year, $21 million deal shortly after Billy D’s change of heart after his brief stint with the Orlando Magic. We reported last May that the deal hadn’t been signed yet. It’s September and there’s still no sign of a signed document, 15 months after the fact.
My sources tell me that Billy could sign the extension in a matter of days. Of course, Billy told my esteemed colleague, Robbie Andreu, at the SEC spring meetings in Destin in May that he expected to sign the deal the following week.
I don’t think it’s anything for Gator fans to fret about. Billy received his $3.5 million salary last season and is still bound to the school under his previous deal, which runs through September of 2009. Foley doesn’t believe in buyout clauses (there’s none in the previous deal) so Billy can leave any time regardless.