Kentucky holds Big Blue Madness event
by Kyle Tucker, USA TODAY Sports
LEXINGTON, KY. — Let’s just call this one Bigger Blue Madness. Yet again, the University of Kentucky outdid itself Friday night at the annual extravaganza that is the first public practice by both of the school’s basketball programs.
There was a giant, spinning, firework-spewing video screen suspended above the court at Rupp Arena. As the men’s players were introduced, they appeared to levitate from beneath a massive, temporary stage. They emerged through jets of smoke, wearing warm-up suits with buttons and jersey numbers that glowed in the dark. A “fan stunt” lit up the crowd’s phones and synchronized their strobe with the music.
“We don’t just play college basketball,” coach John Calipari crowed – from his own separate stage, using a teleprompter fit for the President, with all eight of the program’s national championship trophies at his feet. “We are college basketball.”
This year’s show cost “just north” of $400,000, a new record, said Jason Schlafer, UK’s senior associate athletic director over marketing and advertising. The school spent about $300,000 on Madness last year, when the court was transformed into a huge, high-definition video screen.
This year’s crowd included a host of NBA players and a heap of elite recruits – the people the event is really meant for these days. Per usual, Calipari delivered a rousing recruiting pitch, er, speech.
“Have I told you, you people are crazy?” he said as the capacity crowd roared. “We are borderless. We are everywhere. No corner is left untouched by the blue mist.”
UK women’s coach Matthew Mitchell, who has built a tradition of hilarious dance routines at Madness, also did not disappoint. He came out in an afro wig and did his best James Brown impersonation, even dropping into the splits, before a quick costume change – at which time he transitioned into a routine with backup dancers in schoolgirl outfits and shimmied to Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”
Mitchell grabbed the microphone afterward and said, “It can’t get any more stupid than that, can it?” Later, his team cut its 10-minute scrimmage short by abruptly breaking into a choreographed dance and step show on … [For more on No. 1 Kentucky holds annual Big Blue Madness event, click here.]