FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Former Arkansas and Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton was part of a large, enthusiastic crowd that watched the Wildcats play the Razorbacks on Wednesday night.
Dressed in a gray, pin-striped suit and red tie, Sutton shook his head when an Arkansas beat reporter noted how Bud Walton Arena has had plenty of empty seats most games.
"I don't understand why the crowds aren't better," Sutton said. Then he added with a sly smile, "Maybe they got spoiled over the years."
Sutton had a lot to do with spoiling Arkansas fans. In 17 seasons, he compiled a 389-169 record that included a Final Four appearance in 1978.
Going into the Kentucky game, Arkansas averaged 13,062 fans in an arena that seats 19,200. That ranks fifth among Southeastern Conference schools.
"I'm not sure college basketball hasn't been hurt in our area (by the NBA)," Sutton said. "The (Oklahoma City) Thunder probably hurt Oklahoma and Oklahoma State."
Sutton attended the game at the invitation of Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey and assistant coach Rob Evans. Among those accompanying him was his son, Sean, who played point guard for his father at UK.
Eddie Sutton noted how he gave Pelphrey his first coaching job as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State. Evans was a longtime member of Sutton's staffs.
Sutton said he considers UK Coach John Calipari a friend. "Very good coach and very good guy," Sutton said.
In his first season as Kentucky coach, Sutton led the Cats to a 32-4 record. Sutton reminded reporters that his first UK team helped change college basketball. Because UK lost to LSU in the region finals in the teams' fourth meeting, the NCAA Tournament made a priority of preventing rematches in post-season play.
Sutton, who turns 75 March 12, retired from coaching after the 2007-08 season. He acknowledged missing the job.
"I miss the fellowship you have with coaches and your players," he said. "The everyday associations you have (and) watching players mature and grow. I don't miss the games as much and I certainly don't miss recruiting."
'Red out,' sort of
Calipari likes to point out that his team faces a hostile crowd revved up by a promotion. An "orange out" at Florida or a "red out" at Ole Miss, for example. Calipari jokingly said he might enter the T-shirt business to cash in.
Arkansas put out the word about a "red out" for the game against Kentucky. But it was not a promotion that's captivated Razorback fans.
"Last I knew it was not a sellout as of yet," Arkansas spokesman Phil Pierce wrote in an e-mail on Tuesday. "Coach (John) Pelphrey mentioned a "red out" in a phone interview earlier this week, but other than an e-mail to our student body, there hasn't been a formal marketing campaign."
Pierce noted that most Arkansas fans wear red to all home games. So a "red out" is kind of redundant.
CBS assigned Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner to broadcast the Kentucky-Florida game on Saturday. Tim Brando and Mike Gminski will call the Syracuse-Georgetown game that day.