Tonight, the Ole Miss Rebels will take on the Vanderbilt Commodores on their home floor in the C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum. With the Rebs a virtual lock for the NCAA tournament and the 'Dores sitting just under .500 in conference play, this is a contest that would have little intrigue or import if it weren't the final SEC men's contest to take place at Ole Miss' beloved-yet-much-maligned Tad Pad. With the [CORPORATE SPONSOR] Pavilion at Ole Miss under construction and slated to be ready for the opening of SEC basketball play in January of 2016, the Tad Pad will soon see its doors shuttered and, eventually, be demolished to make way for a green space.
This is a much-overdue improvement. The Rebs' on-campus coliseum, a structure that aesthetically is reminiscent of the Cold War fears and UFO obsessions common in the American zeitgeist of the early 1960's. It also has the traits typical of a building over half-a-century old, with seating appropriate for people a few inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than they are on average today, the acoustics of a concrete box, and a seeming inability to support a lighting system appropriate for high-definition television cameras.
It makes good sense that we're dumping the place for something brand new and, at the very least, highly functional. But let's not pretend like we're not going to miss the Tad Pad, even if just a little bit. We all have formed some pretty great memories of our times as Ole Miss students or fans within the structurally unsound confines she offered, and with today being the last day that the coliseum will see SEC basketball, we felt it appropriate to share some of these memories with you.
First up, me:
I was a part of the largest crowd in Tad Pad history, a game which, in my estimation, was the loudest I've ever heard the place. It was February 10, 2007, which was the opening day of the 2007 baseball season. The Diamond Rebs - ranked No. 13 to start that year - beat UNO at a chilly Swayze Field. I watched from Right Field and drank beer.
After that game I, along with a small army of students, walked from Swayze Field to the Tad Pad to watch Ole Miss, in Andy Kennedy's first season, come from behind to beat then-No. 18 Alabama to earn a share of a tie for the SEC West lead. It was the first time in three seasons that Ole Miss had beaten a ranked opponent, and the first time Ole Miss was atop the division in basketball in, like, a century or something. It was nuts.
With about five minutes to go in the second half, Rebel guard Clarence Sanders stole the ball, drove the floor, made an easy layup, and gave Ole Miss its first lead in the game. It was a back-and-forth affair for most of the rest of the contest, with Sanders nailing a clutch three before clinching the win on yet another steal in the final minute.
During that game's final moments, the Tad Pad was like being inside of a jet engine. It was dangerously crowded and raucous, with about 9,000 Ole Miss fans simultaneously remembering that Ole Miss basketball could actually be good. That day, we crossed into an odd, brave new world where Ole Miss fans were, again, excited about the goings on post-football and pre-baseball.
My memory is indicative of what a terrible basketball fan I was. I remember living in the frat house in '07; with the Tad Pad a mere couple hundred yards away, I usually couldn't be bothered to attend games, usually favoring getting my ass kicked in Intramural sports or getting my ass kicked in whatever FPS vidya game was popular then. Regardless, one fateful night, I was looking for something to do, and passed by the TV room, where Ole Miss was playing basketball against LSU. At home. It was late, and the game was tight, so with some drunken bravado, we jogged over in the cold to Tad Smith. We got in for free (I keep saying "we" because I can't remember who was with me. Ghost? Juco? Both? Neither?), and walked up through the tunnel.
LSU was attempting an inbounds. You know where this is going... we saw the final play of the game, with Brian Smith intercepting the inbounds, dishing to Todd Abernathy, who fed the ball to Clarence Sanders, who knocked down a cold-blooded 17-foot jumper for the win. We raised our arms in jubilation, yelled a quick Hotty Toddy, and peaced the fuck out of there. It was awesome.
During Spring Break one year, Ole Miss hosted an NIT game against Appalachian State. Being a good Rebel, I drove up for it. A friend and I were, quite literally, two of five people in the student section. Near the end of the game (which Ole Miss won), App State's senior point guard was shooting free throws. Because I do stupid things sometimes, I yelled, "THESE ARE THE LAST FEW MINUTES OF YOUR BASKETBALL CAREER! YOU WON'T PLAY MEANINGFUL BALL AFTER THIS MOMENT!"
The player actually teared up a little bit, and a security guard came over to tell me to settle down.
It took a couple of years before I realized what an asshole-ish thing that was to do. So, App State guard, sorry about that, man.
I'm gonna get away from basketball actually.
This was in 2009 I think. One of my fraternity brothers was doing KA Fight Night, so some buddies and I went down to the Tad Pad to watch. (For those that aren't familiar, Fight Night is a charity boxing tournament for out of shape frat bros to throw hands at each other.) So we get down there, and Greg Hardy's there. And he wants to fight. So in between the scheduled bouts, they ask if anybody wants to take on 6'4, 275-pound, mentally unhinged Greg Hardy. This little white dude raises his hand. We're all, "This is awesome. Greg's about to beat the shit out of this guy. Pass the flask."
Turns out the guy was an amateur MMA fighter and he, unlike Greg Hardy, knew what the hell he was doing inside a boxing ring. Greg was just in there throwing haymakers and the guy was dipping and ducking around them. Had any of them landed, the dude would have probably died. Instead, Greg got tired out, the dude landed a few punches and won by decision.
And thus ends the story of the time Greg Hardy got beat in an amateur boxing match by a guy half his size.
In writing this, the RCR gang of idiots emailed around to talk about Chris Warren burying Kentucky, Armintie Price's general badassery, frisbee dog, vulgar insults hurled in the direction of Rick Stansbury, Colonel Reb rappelling from the rafters, concerts, shows, and all of the other goings on, big and small, that have taken place in the Tad Pad since her doors first opened in 1964. What a fun, dumb little place we've been so lucky to call our own.
Now it's your turn. What Tad Pad memories do you have to share? Let us know in the comments thread below.