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Can UK Basketball play just one neutral site game nearby?

Is it too much to ask the Kentucky basketball team to play games close to the University of Kentucky?

I get why John Calipari prefers to schedule neutral site games over home-and-homes. There’s more money to be made at neutral sites and the environment mimics what players will experience in the NCAA Tournament. That logic checks out.

Kentucky’s schedule features at least two of those each year, opening the season with the Champions Classic and celebrating Christmas with the CBS Sports Classic. The destinations have rotated between New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta and Indianapolis. Chicago and Atlanta (vs. Georgia Tech on the day after Thanksgiving) are already on the schedule in 2020-21 and New York will be in the rotation the following year.

For those keeping track at home, Indianapolis is the only city on that list that is a reasonable day’s drive from Lexington. That is why steam rolled out of my ears when I heard Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey say he’s discussed playing their 2021-22 neutral site game against UK at Madison Square Garden.

“We’d love to play in The Garden,” Brey said on the College Hoops Today Podcast. “Cal and I have talked about The Garden. Hopefully, we could pull that off.”

First and foremost, UK already has one game at MSG in 2021-22. That should be enough to eliminate The Garden from contention. Secondly, and most importantly, these games should be played for fans who normally do not get to see the Wildcats in-person.

Once upon a time, I was a young kid who never got to attend Kentucky basketball games. There were two exceptions — exhibitions against Athletes in Action and the annual game at Freedom Hall. One of my favorite childhood Kentucky basketball memories was at Freedom Hall, not Rupp Arena. In 2003 Santa Claus gave my brother and I tickets to watch the Cats take on Austin Peay from about a dozen rows off the court. We arrived an hour early and watched with shock and awe as players dunked in warm-ups. For those watching at home, it probably looked like a boring, easy win. For the kids sitting near the floor, we lost our freaking minds for 40 minutes. The highlight of the night happened when 7-foot-3 Shagari Alleyne clanged a dunk off the back of the rim just before halftime because he jumped too high. It was exhilarating.

Neutral site games were previously scheduled to give a select group of Kentucky fans an opportunity to watch the Wildcats play in-person. Instead of playing in Cincinnati for the Northern Kentucky fans who are living on a budget, UK is flying to the Bahamas for only the wealthiest fans to witness an historic De’Aaron Fox triple-double against Arizona State.

The Kentucky basketball program gives its most fortunate fans multiple opportunities a year to watch the team in America’s biggest cities. In 2022 they’ll be able to watch UK across the pond in London. It’s time UK throws another group of fans a bone by playing at least one of these games at a nearby regional venue.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

27 Comments for Can UK Basketball play just one neutral site game nearby?

  1. A_Blue_Wildcat
    3:33 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    When was the last time UK did something that was specifically for the benefit of the fans?

    • mashburnfan1
      4:50 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

      You can thank Cal for games at Rupp now being very easy to get tickets for. Back in the days you are talking about we played great home games and had players you got to know. Rupp was a very tough ticket. Is easy to get a good seat now for good price. Now we get bad home games and bad basketball for most of the year EVERY year. New faces that after one year leave, ready or in most cases not. If not nba they transfer thinking they failed.

    • Corder
      11:02 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

      Blame cal all you want but then blame Sabin for Alabama football games not selling out blame every coach for all these top tier programs not selling out. People have realized in this country that it’s a lot better sitting at home watching a game because ticket prices are outrageous and the games are boring now when it comes to basketball.

    • runningunnin.454
      5:35 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

      Boy, Mash…it’s a good thing no one forces you to go to the games, right?

    • 4everUKBlue
      6:35 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

      mashbum wasn’t even alive back in Rupp’s day, he’s still living in mom’s basement.

  2. JATR4
    3:43 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    “my brother and me”

  3. dan1965
    3:56 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    I remember all those years of games in Freedom hall, honestly never got to go but it was nice to see fans who never got to see them play have an opportunity.
    I remember to when the graduating seniors would tour the state,not sure how many sites,but they would play basketball games with the ,what was it. marathon oil,Ashland oil maybe, so long I just can’t remember. But anyway they had a group of players, who joined the Kentucky seniors and played at different spots in the state,it was nice to at least get to see some of the players for somebody who was a young guy who had never been anywhere and didn’t have the means to travel back then.
    I remember when I saw them,they came to Cawood high school in Harlan county where I’m from, and it was the Macy and Shidler class. Shidler was my favorite player,always loved how hard he played During, and when he got hot outside,man. He came off a screen at top of key first play and drilled a bomb from deep,never forget that excitement to actually be able to see a Kentucky player or few, really nice.

  4. lexattorney
    4:12 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    I can see this from both sides. It would be great to see UK play a neutral-site, meaningful game within a manageable distance for the average fan. However, I also realize that, as a fan blessed to actually live in KY, it is selfish to want every game to be within 100 miles of Lexington. Having lived outside of the Commonwealth multiple times I’ve experienced the difficulty in finding my way to games. It’s a double-edged sword and, no matter what, everybody can’t be pleased.

  5. bigblue98
    4:14 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    Thank goodness the football team is good so can at least attend those. As Nick pointed out these trips aren’t close and have priced the average fan out. Can’t afford or don’t want to pay 3000-4000 dollars for a regular season game and other costs involved to go to MSG. Know that’s my option, but ridiculous amount of money for one game in season. Should really try to bring back game to Louisville. Huge fan base area and people would love it.

    • Corder
      11:04 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

      I don’t know what prices you are looking up but I didn’t pay close to that when I went out to Vegas for the game.

  6. Headhurts
    4:32 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    Now that slick Rick & turtleneck Tom are gone we need a game in the YUM center.

    • Corder
      11:06 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

      Why do so many fans want to play there? That’s like unc fans wanting to play at duke but not play duke. Why would we want to give any money at all to UofL as well as play in their arena?

    • ClutchCargo
      2:13 pm June 24, 2020 Permalink

      The Yum! Center doesn’t belong to Little Brother any more than Freedom Hall does, and there used to be a UK game there every year.

  7. CatsFanFrankfort
    4:40 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    Chicago and Atlanta are about 6 hours away. Thats not too bad, and certainly a reasonable day’s drive.

  8. Blue Beard
    4:43 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    I mean, there is a reason it is called a “neutral site’ game… I don’t see what the issue is here. They arent too close to either university by their very nature… Also, get over this whole ‘I can believe I have to travel 100 miles to see the Cats play even though I live in Kentucky and could literally go see them play any home game any time.’ I live in Colorado and to go ski on any given Friday or Saturday can be up to a 2.5 – 3 hour drive each way from Denver, just for a single day of skiing (keep in mind this is an activity totally devoid of the pride and passion of an SEC sporting event). I would gladly drive 8+ hours to go see the Cats play, so bottom line GET THE HELL OVER IT.

  9. runningunnin.454
    5:47 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    As I said on the other thread, ND and UK used to play in Louisville every year in the ’60’s and ’70’s. ND didn’t have adequate facilities for basketball. We helped them out by giving them a marquee game.
    I was fortunate to see a couple of these games, and watched UK-IU there once as well. Saw Austin Carr for ND, and Steve Downing for IU…ugh, lost that one in OT.

    • runningunnin.454
      6:17 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

      Couple of footnotes; one of the ND games was the one when Digger Phelps complained that the game ball had Rupp’s name on it. He stood by as the refs explained the situation to Rupp. Rupp listened calmly, and said “fine, go get one with his name on it, and we’ll use that…ha ha, I think it was Phelps’ first year at ND.
      After the IU game, I waited for the team to come out of the locker room; as expected Rupp was none too happy. I said, good game, coach. He glared at me, and said, “what did you like about it?” I mumbled something about it being a good game, and finally he said, “Yes, it was”.

  10. Lip Man 1
    5:53 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    Nick brings up some excellent points.

  11. rockatao
    6:03 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    Location for neutral site games are selected for one of three reasons. 1) Take one or more current players close to their home so their family and friends can see them play. 2) Reward the players with a vacation – Bahamas, Hawaii, etc. 3) Go to a location where you will attract a few of next year’s recruits. Local fans do not factor into this equation.

  12. ukyelecteng
    6:20 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    You think Cal cares about the average fan ? There’s way too much money and exposure to pass up from playing at one of the A list cities. Watch it on tv and be grateful.

  13. MrFlip41129
    12:00 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    Mashburnfan1 eat at bit bowl of dicks!

  14. CahillsCrossingNT
    8:02 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    Why worry about where any games are played? They won’t win anything of consequence anyway.

  15. CatManDo
    8:54 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    As a couple of people have noted, recruiting/national exposure is one big reason these games are played where they are. It was cool back in the day though when we would play Notre Dame or a similar opponent in Louisville.

    On a side note, I would love to see us play one game a year in Memorial with proceeds going to a good cause (Coaches for Cancer, etc.). Ticket prices would be reasonable but there would be strong encouragement for donations to be made on top of the purchase price to go to the cause. The opponent could be a good regional team – imagine a game there playing a West Virginia, Virginia Tech, or Cincinnati packed with rowdy, non-season ticket holding, fans.
    Not going to happen I realize because of the lost revenue of playing in Rupp but we can dream!

  16. ClutchCargo
    9:17 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    You guys realize there are UK fans in those far away sites who wouldn’t otherwise get to see them in person, right? Everyone else who is closer to Lexington just needs to buy a ticket to a home game if you are sincere about watching your team play.

  17. Ned T.
    9:59 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    We must remember that this is a life and death issue and must be addressed before we return to toppling statues and rioting. Get focus, people.

  18. WILDCATS1968
    11:41 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    Would love to see UK play some teams we used to play like Purdue, Cincy, Notre Dame. Maybe a home and home. WVA would be good. lots of UK fans across the border. Xavier, Murray State, Belmont. Maybe play some teams like a NC State, FSU. Would be great playing Nova, Oregon or some other team we never play.
    Here is an idea, have a Wildcat invitational. UK, Villanova, Arizona and Kansas State / Northwestern. Or maybe UK and Nova or Arizona and add two lesser Wildcat teams like Weber State (have been very good recently), Abilene Christian, Davidson or Bethune Cookman. beats the hell out of playing High Point, UT Valley, Mt. St. Marys, Lamar,Fairleigh Dickinson or whatever other scrub we play.