John Clay's notes: Lost in neutral-site basketball debate is effect on local economy

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMay 29, 2012 

John Clay

As usual, John Calipari's brain was whirring in overdrive Tuesday at the Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla.

Perhaps the UK basketball coach spent too much time in the sun.

In an interview with Lexington's own Dave Baker for the SEC digital site, Calipari said that he would love to add to the men's and women's basketball doubleheader he had scheduled in 2013-14 with Baylor at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

"How about this?" Calipari told Baker. "I want to do a tripleheader."

Our favorite idea man went on to explain that he envisioned a Friday night men's and women's hoops doubleheader followed with a Saturday football showdown, all in the same venue, all against the same school.

Could he mean UK football vs. Baylor in 2013-14? Or how about UK-Indiana or UK-Purdue in Lucas Oil? Or UK-Missouri in St. Louis? (You would have to play an early conference basketball game to accomplish that.) Or UK-Michigan State in Detroit?

Great idea, in theory. In practicality, you're asking Joker Phillips to play a killer eight-game SEC schedule, plus the annual Louisville civil war, plus another non-conference game, away from Commonwealth Stadium.

That would hurt not only university coffers, but local businesses, as well. And never mind what it might do to the program's annual goal of reaching bowl eligibility (which could be raised to seven victories in the near future).

That's the one thing missing from this "neutral site" debate. What about the local businesses — hotels, restaurants, drinking establishments — who benefit from the buzz, excitement and attention generated by a big game?

Yes, Rupp Arena is filled regardless if the Cats are playing a school Google Maps couldn't find, but I'd venture to guess that the local entertainment business picks up when a North Carolina, a Louisville or an Indiana — especially a very good Indiana — comes to town.

Now, moving on.

■ Here's all you need to know about the NCAA Baseball Tournament Selection Committee, which chose not to award Kentucky a regional host site for the first weekend:

This is the same group that made Florida the overall No. 1 seed.

That's the same Florida that did not win the SEC East, much less the overall SEC regular-season crown.

It's the same Florida that not only failed to win the SEC Tournament, it didn't even make the finals of the SEC Tournament.

Florida was college baseball's pre-season No. 1, however, and the committee appeared to deal more in perception than in reality.

■ That said, UK should not dwell too long on the NCAA snub. First-game foe Kent State owns the nation's longest winning streak at 17 games. Plus, the Golden Flashes reached the finals of the Austin Regional last year before losing back-to-back games to host Texas.

■ Then there is this: ESPN picked Gary Regional host Purdue as one of its eight teams that should be "packing for Omaha."

■ Andy Katz of ESPN reported that on the SEC's Destin agenda is ironing out a plan for next year's basketball schedule. Divisional play remains out. Picking one annual natural rival is in.

If Tennessee is paired with Vanderbilt, then UK may be paired with Florida, reported Katz. That would mean the end of the yearly trip to Knoxville.

■ Simple game plan from Serena Williams after losing in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday: "I've just got to figure out what I did wrong and not do it again."

■ The Reds' Joey Votto is hitting .333 with runners in scoring position. The rest of the Reds are hitting .195.

■ Says here: The Heat will sweep the Celtics.

■ UK's Eric Quigley wrapped up probably the best tennis career in the school's history, reaching the NCAA men's singles finals on Monday. Alas, Quigley lost to defending champion Steve Johnson of Southern Cal.

Quigley ended up with 172 victories at UK, 27 more than any other player.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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