Inside look at UK men's practice hard to resist for ESPN

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 14, 2012 

  • Wednesday

    Kentucky open practice
    When:
    3 p.m.
    TV: WKYT-27, ESPNU

Pulling back the curtain to glimpse inside a major college basketball program was something ESPN could not resist. So the country can join Kentuckians in watching UK's practice Wednesday.

"A unique opportunity for fans to look inside and see something they don't normally see," said Nick Dawson ESPN's director of programming and acquisitions.

ESPNU will take the feed from Lexington station WKYT, both televising the practice from 3 to 5 p.m. After UK won at Vanderbilt on Saturday, Coach John Calipari said he wanted to do something to break up an upcoming period with no midweek game.

UK students, staff and faculty were invited to attend the practice in Memorial Coliseum.

WKYT agreed to pre-empt Let's Make a Deal and Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show to televise the practice. Those programs will be moved to Insight Channel 5 or 914, said Mike Kanarek, vice president of broadcast operations at WKYT.

Once WKYT (and sister station WYMT) agreed to televise the practice, UK invited ESPN to simulcast the locally produced telecast. In part because it did not have any live telecasts planned for the time period, ESPNU agreed to show the practice, Dawson said.

Dawson compared the UK practice to the network's all-access features or its telecast of spring football games. The network has done more than 50 all-access features. ESPNU plans to air a live telecast of a Baylor practice beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday, spokeswoman Gracie Michael said.

To make room for the UK practice, ESPNU dropped plans to reair SEC Storied: The Play That Changed College Football, All-Access: Dick Vitale at Duke and North Carolina and the McDonald's High School All American Games Selection Show. The network also moved Big 12 This Week to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

WKYT personalities Dave Baker and Matt Jones will serve as announcers for the practice telecast.

Dawson acknowledged how unusual it was for an ESPN network to use non-ESPN announcers.

"Our production team had conversations (with WKYT)," he said, "and we feel comfortable."

The event will also be broadcast on ESPN3.com and UKathletics.com.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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