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Starting the Season on the Right Track

Midnight Mile Returns for 50th Anniversary of the Men’s Basketball Tradition

By Annie Krakower

Collage of archival Midnight Mile photos and a current Terp wearing UMD gear

Tonight’s Midnight Mile, when students will join the UMD men’s basketball team for four laps at Kehoe Track, will mark the 50th anniversary of the tradition started by Hall of Fame coach Lefty Driesell. While the event is now more focused on fun than speedy times, the Terp pride remains.

Photos courtesy of University Archives and Maryland Athletics

The University of Maryland men’s basketball team is wasting no time getting its new season running—literally.

Just after midnight tonight—at 12:03 a.m., to be exact—the squad will join UMD students at Kehoe Track in the return of the Midnight Mile, a tradition started 50 years ago by famed coach Lefty Driesell. At the same time on Oct. 15, 1971, the first possible day to hold practice that season, Driesell lined up the Terps for four late-night laps to get a jump start on their training.

The event eventually morphed into “Midnight Madness,” a pep rally-style festival, and was adopted by college basketball teams around the country before fading out here after 2018. That year, the Terps revived the original mile run to celebrate both their 100th season and Driesell’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Around 600 participants laced up alongside the team in 2018, with 800 hitting the track the following year. The run was canceled last season due to COVID-19, but it’s back just in time for the tradition’s milestone anniversary.

While the event certainly looks different from its debut—when the track was lit by car headlights, and ‘70s short gym shorts ran rampant—the excitement and Terp spirit have remained decades later. See for yourself in the gallery below:

Archival and new pictures of UMD basketball players on the Midnight Mile starting line

The socks were high and the shorts were short as Driesell’s crew toed the line for the first Midnight Mile, while head coach Mark Turgeon’s team—joined by a crowd of students and, of course, Testudo—opted for matching 100th-season shirts in the 2018 run.

Archival and new pictures of UMD basketball players running the Midnight Mile

Forward Jim O’Brien, left, crosses the finish line as his coaches record his time. Forty-eight years later, another UMD forward, current Phoenix Sun player Jalen Smith, takes the track with his fellow Terps in an event more focused on fun than flat-out speed.

Archival picture of Lefty Driesell next to current picture of Mark Turgeon

The Terps’ fearless leaders take in the scene: Driesell sports a cowboy hat and smokes a cigar as he confers with his staff at the first Midnight Mile, and Turgeon meets with the media in 2018 at the now smoke-free track to discuss the revamped tradition.

Archival and new pictures of UMD basketball players and fans at the Midnight Mile

Students were a Midnight Mile staple from the start, whether they were cheering on Terps like Owen Brown from the stands or taking selfies with players like current Boston Celtic Bruno Fernando.

Archival and new pictures of UMD basketball players and coaches at the Midnight Mile

Coaches offer feedback and encouragement throughout: Players Rich Porac (left) and Tom McMillen check out their splits from coach George Raveling’s stopwatch in 1971, and Turgeon and forward Ricky Lindo Jr. high-five Terps as they make their way around the track in 2018.

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