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Most Famous Midnight Madness

October 21, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Most Famous Midnight Madness

by Zach Van Hart

There is something about Midnight Madness. It’s quirky, it’s late, it’s not a real practice; yet we always come to watch. Friday the tradition returned to college basketball arenas all over the country.

For the school I attend, the University of Cincinnati, it returned after a one-year hiatus. This seemed like no big deal to me last season when the basketball program decided to skip this tradition. I bet it was a surprise throughout the nation though, as Cincinnati is known for one of the top schools for the 12 o’clock party.

Why is Cincinnati so known for its Madness? Because of an October night nine years ago, when an old star was honored and a new star was made.

As a 12-year-old basketball fanatic, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance the night Oct. 13, 1994. It was my first experience with Midnight Madness and one I will never forget.

I showed up late, so I missed the unveiling of a tribute to the Big ‘O,’ a larger-than-life statue of Oscar Robertson just outside of Shoemaker Center.

I did get there in time though to collect a commemorative Big O poster, one that still hangs in my room to this day.

However the new statue would only be the warm-up for things to come. Several UC students would compete in different contests, such as three-point shootouts and others.

Then the ESPN cameras clicked on, just in time for the final contest. It was simple enough; one student would get one shot from half-court.

We all know how these half-court shots usually go. If it actually hits something, the rim, the net, the backboard, the student section, anything, it was a good shot.

Usually though, it hits nothing but air. Someone who’s been dreaming of this shot for months eventually watches the ball fly through the air, then smack harmlessly onto the court.

This night would be different. This night would produce a memory for thousands in Cincinnati and thousands more across the country.

This night would be the night of Cory Clouse.

Clouse, then a 21-year-old electrical engineering student, would be the UC student to get a shot at winning a full year of free tuition.

That’s right; the prize for making the shot was one-year’s worth of tuition, something to get any college student pumped. Even the geek who never has watched basketball in his life would be, well, geeked to shoot it.

So Clouse went to the half-court stripe, 47 feet away from some serious cha-ching. And he was greeted there by Mr. College Basketball himself, Dick Vitale.

Vitale chose to attend Cincinnati’s madness event and jumped at the chance to hand Clouse the ball.

Vitale appeared more excited than Clouse (surprise, surprise) as he prepped the youngster for the shot. He was so excited; he decided to sweeten the deal for Clouse.

He told Clouse if he makes the shot, he’ll throw in money to pay for his books for the year too.

So finally, Clouse had the ball. He started a few steps back from half court, collected himself, approached half-court and fired.

I remember the ball just floating through the air, like it was being pulled by a string. It didn’t descend towards the hoop, it just glided along.

And suddenly, boom. It looked more like the rim snatched the ball out of the sky than it dropping in.

Regardless, the ball hit nothing but net. Clouse went nuts. Vitale went nuts. The crowd went nuts. Everyone went nuts.

Clouse and Vitale celebrated in each other’s arms. Vitale would say later he felt like a 10-year-old again. Clouse looked every bit of his 21 years. A 21-year-old with suddenly $5,000 more to spend.

I honestly do not remember anything else from that night. I don’t remember the dunk contest, the scrimmage, or the ride home (being 12 I was probably asleep on the ride home).

But I remember Clouse’s shot.

Clouse would win an ESPY in 1995 for his shot. Call it the icing on the cake.

For some reason, starting my seventh grade season I began shooting three-pointers from long distance. I once hit three-straight treys from about 25 feet during a game. And I would shoot half-court shots during practice all the time. Coincidence? I think not. I wanted to make the big shot; a big shot like Clouse made.

March Madness is a fun night for basketball teams across the country. For Cincinnati fans on Oct. 13, 1994, it was more than that. Thanks to Cory Clouse, it was a night to never forget.


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