Seven suggestions for UK sports fans

jclay@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

Here are seven things University of Kentucky sports fans should do or visit. Why seven? Because UK basketball has won seven national championships, that's why.

Sit in the top row at Rupp Arena for a UK basketball game.

The blue bloods and the blue hairs sit near courtside at Rupp. But if you want to find the real fans, go to the top of the cavernous, 23,000-seat mecca of basketball blue. Up there, the noses might bleed. Up there, the players might look like ants. But up there you will find a bond shared by fans who would rather be part of the action than enjoy a better but detached view back home.

Try to peek over the fence of the UK football practice field.

When legendary high school football quarterback Tim Couch signed on for his freshman season at Kentucky in 1996, Coach Bill Curry decided to close practices to the media and public. That was almost too much for Tim's father, Elbert, who along with his cousin, Lexingtonian Joe Gentry, would park a car at a house next to the practice field, climb up on the hood and try to peer over the fence to see what was happening. With Curry assistant Elliot Uzelac trying to turn Couch into an option quarterback, Tim's father could not have liked what he saw.

Attend a women's game at Memorial Coliseum.

The historic building, which opened in 1950, was named and dedicated in memory of Kentuckians war veterans. At the time, its roughly 12,000 seats made it the largest arena of its kind in the South. It was the home of two of Adolph Rupp's four national title teams. Renovations have reduced the seating capacity to about 8,500, and it is now the primary home of the Kentucky women's basketball team, but there is still something about seeing a game in the Coliseum.

Drive back into McMeekin Place.

When Rick Pitino arrived at UK in 1989, the former coach of the New York Knicks wanted to live near campus. He and his family purchased a lot in the new McMeekin Place development just off Tates Creek Road, about a mile from Commonwealth Stadium. When word leaked of the location of the Pitino property, some overzealous fans found their way onto the site and scooped up dirt as a souvenir. Since Pitino is now the coach at Louisville, to many of those fans the former UK coach's name is dirt.

Visit (or try to visit) Idle Hour Country Club.

Chances are, they won't let you on the grounds, but you can drive around the outside of the premises of the exclusive club that was the spot for UK coaches in the 1950s. Bear Bryant lived right next to Idle Hour and wrote in his autobiography, "We had a social position coaches seldom have — good friends with Governor Wetherby and all — and we lived right there near the Idle Hour Country Club. Mr. Guy Huguelet got us an honorary membership, and that's a club that some people wait years to get into." These days, if you go out the front entrance onto Richmond Road and take a right, John Calipari's house is just across the street.

Migrate to the intersection of Euclid and Woodland avenues after a big weekend win.

That has been the unofficial meeting place of Kentucky students and fans after the Cats have accomplished monumental triumphs, especially in basketball. (There have been more of those, of course.) The scene normally turns into a communal mosh pit, or at least until the police arrive — sometimes just to watch. In the old days, Adolph Rupp's favorite restaurant, Brooking's, famous for its chili, was at the intersection. Now, if you're hungry, you can always eat at Lynagh's.

Visit Adolph Rupp's grave at Lexington Cemetery.

The Baron of Basketball might have been born in Kansas and played his college basketball at Kansas under Phog Allen, but he became and died a Kentuckian. At the time of his death in 1977, Rupp was college basketball's all-time winningest coach and owner of four national titles. Fittingly, the centerpiece of his marker is a basketball.

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or follow him on Twitter at # johnclayiv.

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