John Clay: Calipari shows his support for Transylvania University

Dinner with Lane raises money for Transy

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 1, 2011 

John Clay

What happened Sunday night at the Keeneland Entertainment Center is what we need more of in college athletics.

There was storytelling.

There was good food.

There was laughter.

There were the NCAA-member basketball teams and coaches from two schools in different divisions, both from the same town, sharing camaraderie all for a good civic cause.

"It would have been a lot easier for them to schedule a team from out of state," said Transylvania Coach Brian Lane. "They wouldn't have had requests for dinners and tickets and things like that."

But John Calipari doesn't do things the way a typical coach might do them, especially when it comes to doing something to support the town in which he lives.

So for its first 2011-12 exhibition game, Kentucky didn't schedule West Podunk State from the Far Region of Nowhere. Instead, Cal looked up the street and scheduled Transylvania University, the Division III school that hasn't played UK in the regular season in basketball in 100 years.

"And if they beat us," cracked Calipari on Sunday, "it'll be another 100 years."

Only Calipari didn't just schedule the Pioneers, he agreed to participate in a dinner Sunday night at Keeneland, featuring both teams and both coaches, all to raise funds for Transylvania athletics.

Tickets were $150 a person with a table of 10 costing $1,200. A team-side table of 10 cost $5,000. To sit at the head table with the head coaches cost $15,000.

And the place was packed, with a silent auction beforehand and an after-dinner auction that included a signed basketball from the two coaches, tickets to a UK basketball game, complete with invitations for two ball boys and a parking pass, which brought a top bid of $6,250.

Kentucky might (will) win the game on Wednesday, but Lane stole the show on Sunday.

The Transy coach quipped that with Calipari on the speaking schedule, he wanted to go first.

"After hearing Brian," Calipari said, "I wish I'd gone first."

Before they auctioned off a special Makers' Mark bottle that would bear the inscription of Wednesday night's winner, Lane joked, "I lobbied hard to keep the score off the bottle."

He also kidded Calipari about the UK coach's son, Bradley, attending the Transylvania Basketball Camp this past summer.

Lane joked that he didn't want it to affect how UK treated the Pioneers on the floor Wednesday night, but he wanted to (facetiously) make sure Calipari was aware that his son won awards for best free-throw shooter, best shooter and best camper.

"And I think you were out of town," Lane joked, "but we named you the most outstanding parent."

When it was Cal's turn to speak, he noted that when he and his family came to Lexington "among the first people we met were the Lanes."

Truth be told, that's the way it has always been between the two programs.

C.M. Newton played for (and was later athletics director at) Kentucky and was the basketball coach at Transy. Former Transy coach and legend Don Lane, Brian's father, was a close friend of former UK coach Tubby Smith.

Now Calipari is taking the relationship to the next step with Wednesday night's game in Rupp.

"We really appreciate Cal and his staff working with us on such a unique event," Brian Lane said on Monday via email. "Their willingness to take the time to help us raise money for our athletic department prior to such a historic game speaks volumes about the relationship that the two schools foster. It was a big-time event that our players, alums and supporters thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks to Cal for making it happen."

Now that's what college athletics should really be about.

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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