Friday evening, the UTRGV Fieldhouse will open its doors to the student body for a tradition that merges social interaction and athletics, specifically basketball.
Midnight Madness is an event created to give the student population an opportunity to meet the basketball team. However, the night is not just restricted to the players being introduced. Before everyone files into the gym, there are a few hours of festivities in the parking lot for fan enjoyment.
This year, there is an air of freshness leading up to the event. You can’t say it’s an annual event just yet because this time around, it’s UTRGV’s first rodeo.
Outside in the parking lot from 6 to 9 p.m. activities will include a tailgate party. The cookout will include a fajita and wing contest among organizations.
A “Burning of the V” will also take place in the parking lot, all happening before the action moves indoors near 9 p.m.
Despite all the fun and festivities surrounding the Fieldhouse, the epicenter remains Vaquero hoops. The premiere of both men’s and women’s basketball teams is the night’s showcase.
Men’s basketball is coached by Dan Hipsher for the third season, the first as UTRGV. Not only will the name, colors and court be new but also nine players on the roster. Seven of the nine newcomers are transfer students who have joined the team already with college experience in previous seasons.
Everett Osborne, a 6-foot-4-inch guard, is among a group of players who are transfer students but also are returning to the team under the same head coach and hope to improve on the 10-21 season from a year ago. Osborne played in 31 games last year and averaged 4.7 points in his appearances.
“It’s been us in the gym with each other for weeks and we play the city, we play for ourselves,” the student-athlete from Los Angeles said. “So, it will be a great opportunity to display and showcase what we’ve been working on, the new talent that we have and just show everybody a good time.
“I think everyone will be able to notice it right off the bat. Off of just seeing the lineup, the people, seeing the height, seeing the maturity on the team on Midnight Madness, I think it will be a great opportunity.”
Osborne directed the attention to the team’s performance when the UTRGV schedule begins.
Asked how they keep the energy and excitement in the Fieldhouse on Midnight Madness through the start of the season, he replied: “Once they see us, I think they’ll be excited. … Once we start winning and get the ball rolling, I think everyone will get on the bandwagon.”
Sharyland graduate Joaquin Pistokache said Midnight Madness is something the team worked and looked forward to.
“That’s something we’ve been working towards being able to get better as a team and put on a great show for the crowd,” said the redshirt junior, who played a season at Roberts Wesleyan College. “It’s a new school name, new mascot, new group of guys. The mentality is different and, hopefully, we can turn it around this season.”
He echoed the thought that winning is the goal right out of the gates.
“That’s what we want,” Pistokache said. “We ultimately want to win and we want people to come and watch us win.” The excitement is not just limited to student-athletes, junior dance team member Yajaira Lopez is ready for a packed house.
“Basketball is the time where people show more school spirit than usual,” the dance education major said. “This is our very first year as UTRGV and there is a lot of new faces, from the spirit program to the teams themselves. It is something that many are eager to experience. It is always great to cheer on our student- athletes and get our crowd involved with everything we do.”
Lopez recognizes this event as a big deal for school pride and union between students, student-athletes and staff.
“Midnight Madness is when we get our biggest crowd and performing is always exciting,” the 20-year-old said. “Seeing all the community come together is great.”
The women’s team is looking to build on its most successful year yet from a season ago.
Nineteen wins by the team was the most in legacy institution UT Pan American’s
program history. Nine conference wins and 12 victories at the Fieldhouse also set records.
Head Coach Larry Tidwell knows that winning is a big step toward filling the seats.
“It’s been a total commit from the coaches, the players and the staff,” said Tidwell, who is going into his third year leading the program. “Now one of our main goals is to fill the Fieldhouse up.”
The coach is ready to move forward from success with no signs of slowing down or a slump following last year’s impressive campaign.
“The thing I like to do as a program, I don’t like to rebuild, I like to reload,” Tidwell said. “And we’re going to reload with some really good players. Our recruiting class is going to be ranked in the top 60 in the country and we’re going to have some good players coming in.”
While players do come to the program as newcomers, junior Shawnte’ Goff remains a pivotal cog in the women’s machine.
Goff’s 13.5 points per game a year ago stood as fifth best PPG in the WAC. Last Wednesday at WAC media day, Goff was named onto the preseason first-team all-conference in the coaches and media polls.
The wait is almost over and all the gym work and practice will finally be put to the test when the teams begin play.
The men’s first game takes place against the University of Miami Nov. 13, with the home opener against Texas A&M-Kingsville Nov. 20.
The women start the season on the road as well with the Islander Classic tournament in Corpus Christi Nov. 13. The first home match Concordia Nov. 16.