UK Men's Basketball

UK rules ESPN's Super Tuesday

On Monday, ESPN announced its schedule for Southeastern Conference games on its "Super Tuesday" lineup next season.

Welcome to the Kentucky-Florida-Tennessee double round-robin.

At least one of those programs is in every one of the Super Tuesday games. They have a monopoly in two of the games: Kentucky at Florida on Jan. 12 and Tennessee at Florida on Feb. 23.

Nick Dawson, ESPN's senior manager of programming for college basketball, acknowledged that the desire for ratings led to repeat appearances for Kentucky (four), Florida (three) and Tennessee (three) in the eight-game Tuesday package.

Mark Whitworth, an associate commissioner of the SEC, said that UK, Florida and Tennessee would "anchor coverage" and "drive the most ratings" while helping an effort to "create a national brand" for the league.

As for Kentucky leading the way in appearances, Whitworth cited the arrival of new coach John Calipari to the program.

"I think they understand the impact Calipari has had before even coaching his first game," Whitworth said of ESPN programmers.

The Super Tuesday lineup marks the first tangible evidence of the SEC's new 15-year, $2.25 billion contract with ESPN. The deal triples the league's guaranteed weekly appearances on one of the all-sports network's channels: from one to three.

ESPN plans to release its entire SEC college basketball schedule on Thursday.

That Thursday announcement clears the way for Kentucky to release its entire schedule for the 2009-10 season. UK officials have said they were waiting for ESPN to announce its schedule first. Then UK plans to unveil its schedule on a television show.

As for "Super Tuesday," UK will play four times: at Florida on Jan. 12, at South Carolina on Jan. 26, against visiting Ole Miss on Feb. 2 and at Mississippi State on Feb. 16.

Other "Super Tuesday" matchups are Tennessee at Alabama on Jan. 19, Tennessee at Vanderbilt on Feb.9, Tennessee at Florida on Feb. 23 and Vanderbilt at Florida on March 2.

Four SEC programs — Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia and LSU — will not appear on Super Tuesday next season. Each is expected to play on the new Thursday package, which ESPN dubs its Thursday Night Showcase.

Whitworth noted that ESPN is contractually obligated to put all 12 SEC teams on one of its main two channels (ESPN and ESPN2) at least once each season.

Super Tuesday games will air on ESPN and be simulcast on ESPN360.com. The Thursday night games will be on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

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