UK Men's Basketball

At Kansas, marketplace $elects $eats

UK's Jarrod Polson went up and under Tuesday versus the University of Windsor. The freshman from West Jessamine High has been given a scholarship.
UK's Jarrod Polson went up and under Tuesday versus the University of Windsor. The freshman from West Jessamine High has been given a scholarship.

This will be "Select a Seat" week at the University of Kansas. For any Kentucky fan who finds the increases in ticket prices and required donations for prime seats next season hard to swallow, this may represent timely perspective.

As UK noted in announcing the price hikes, er, "adjustments" earlier this month, the cost of athletics continues to rise everywhere. Kansas found a way to address this financial crunch when it began re-seating fans in Allen Fieldhouse each season.

Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director, external relations for Kansas, said the school tripled donations to its Williams Fund: from $5 million a year prior to re-seating each season beginning in 2004-05, to $15 million this past year.

From Monday through Friday this week, Kansas fans will enter Allen Fieldhouse and personally select their seats. About 12,000 of the gym's 16,300 seats are part of the Select a Seat policy.

Basically, the more a fan donates and/or buys tickets, the earlier in the selection process he or she gets to pick a seat. The minimum required donation is $100. But, of course, the higher the donation and participation in Kansas athletics, the greater the chance to sit closer to the court.

"The beauty of the system we have is we are not telling donors you have to pay X number of dollars to sit in the first 10 rows," Marchiony said. "We let the marketplace determine who sits in the first 10 rows."

UK raised its required donation for the first four rows in Rupp Arena from $1,350 to $5,000 per seat. By contrast, Kansas grades on a curve: the higher the donations, whatever they are, the greater chance to get the best seats.

Director of Athletics Lew Perkins made the annual re-seating policy a priority. Coincidentally, he came to Kansas from Connecticut, which also has a similar re-seating policy. UConn has a particularly thorny chore since it re-seats in both men's and women's basketball, plus each team plays home games in two arenas (one on-campus and the other the Hartford Civic Center).

"The need was particularly acute here," Marchiony said. "We needed facility upgrades badly. We had Title IX issues we needed to address."

UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart noted how the expected $3.6 million raised by the price increases would be used to address the school's pressing need to upgrade facilities, particularly at Commonwealth Stadium and the outdoor track.

As with UK's price increases, not all Kansas fans embraced a re-seating policy that meant a greater cost to watch the Jayhawks in football and men's basketball.

"Instituting a point system and sticking with it is not for the faint of heart," Marchiony said. "You have to be ready to hear criticism and forge ahead to do the best thing for the program."

To introduce the program, Marchiony and Kansas officials met with athletic donors across the state. They explained how a point system would reward those with the greatest participation each year with better seats.

Reaction was mixed.

Kansas donors who sat in the 25th row in Allen Fieldhouse loved the idea of being able to get closer to the court. Longtime season ticket holders conditioned to simply renew their tickets for the same seats on, say, the fifth row each year were outraged.

"They argued, 'Hey, I've been, quote, supporting the Jayhawks for 30 years and this is the thanks I get," Marchiony said. "Our point was many of the fans now in the 25th row are just as ardent supporters as you are, but they have donated money for what we need to get done here."

'Just insane'

Sandy Stafford grew up in Alabama. She says her first husband was a "football freak." So she knows the word "fan" is short for "fanatic" and she knows how far people will go to support their favorite teams.

But when her second husband, Jerry, told her that UK was raising the required donation from $1,350 to $5,000 for each of their two seats in Rupp Arena next season, Sandy did not believe him.

"No way that can be right," she told Jerry. "That's just insane."

Of course, Sandy now knows that was correct. So when she sent an e-mail saying she and Jerry had taken out a mortgage on their Owen County farm to pay for their two tickets in the past, and now this, the message commanded attention.

That UK noted its prices remain well in the mainstream of SEC schools and/or other traditional basketball powers made no difference to Sandy.

"They keep saying we don't spend as much money as blah-blah-blah or the donation is not as big as blah-blah-blah, but who cares?" Sandy said. "Everybody in there is not a coal baron or a car dealer. A lot of us are just plain old people."

Sandy, 70, and Jerry, 78, have a cattle farm on about 200 acres in Owen County. They've made what Sandy called "hefty donations" to UK athletics year after year.

"We always gave more than they actually required," she said before adding, "We won't do that this year."

But, Sandy and Jerry expect to make the higher donations to the K Fund and keep their two tickets on the fourth row.

"It's like we're addicted," Sandy said. "Like cigarettes and booze."

But Sandy can't help thinking about the good that could be done with the $10,000 that she and Jerry will donate to the K Fund. Going on annual missionary trips to Kenya gives a person a new perspective.

"For $10,000, you know what you could do in Africa?" she said. "You could feed 600 school kids for a year. Six hundred kids."

Yet people buy the tickets.

"It's screwed up," Sandy said. "We have our heads screwed on wrong."

Chane Behanan

Chane Behanan, the 6-foot-6 power forward from Bowling Green, is making an unofficial visit to Ohio State this weekend. He's scheduled another unofficial visit to Louisville next weekend.

As for official visits, Behanan is scheduled to go to West Virginia on Labor Day weekend. He's also considering an official visit to Texas.

North Carolina Coach Roy Williams signaled his growing interest by scheduling an in-home visit for Sept. 10.

Bowling Green Coach D.J. Sherrill provided this update late last week.

As for UK, Sherrill said that the Cats and Behanan are looking at each other more seriously.

"I don't think it's went as far as a (scholarship) offer," Sherrill said. "Definitely, both sides are evaluating each other a lot more than a month ago. Activity has picked up."

As of now, UK and Behanan want "to see if there's any interest on either side of the fence down the road," Sherrill said.

Among the schools who have offered scholarships are Louisville, West Virginia, Ohio State, Purdue, Mississippi State, Western Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia and Texas.

Behanan played exceptionally well this summer, especially at the Top 100 camp sponsored by the NBA Players Association. After being named that event's most outstanding player, being an undersized power player did not seem quite so disqualifying.

UK became more attentive at the end of the July evaluation period after assistant Kenny Payne and Coach John Calipari had watched Behanan play, Sherrill said.

"Since then, there has been regular communication," the Bowling Green coach said. "They realize Chane's not in any big rush to make a commitment. They want to see what level of interest he has and he's gauging what kind of interest they have."

As Behanan begins making official visits and entertains in-home visits from coaches, the weight of a college choice becomes more real.

"It's kind of a daily practice to sit and talk with him and his family," Sherrill said. "They realize a decision is imminent. It's become much more real and much more serious."

DeAndre Daniels

DeAndre Daniels, a 6-8 forward from Woodland Hills, Calif., has been linked to UK. Perhaps we'll learn this week what to make of this linkage.

Here's a few factoids to ponder:

■ Rivals.com rates him at No. 10 in the high school class of 2011.

■ He may be eligible as a member of the class of 2010, meaning he could enter college this fall semester.

■ He committed last summer to Texas.

■ He played well in the summer circuit this year and became even more of a commodity in the national recruiting world.

■ He reportedly "decommitted" from Texas this summer.

■ He's remained in contact with the Texas coaching staff.

■ Comments from anyone but Daniels or his father, LaRon, should be considered questionable.

■ He or his father may say something this week about his basketball future, such as going to UK, or sticking with Texas or even attending a prep school for a year.

Bounce Back

If facing difficult times in the present economy, Kentucky's small business community will have a chance to hear advice from UK Coach John Calipari. In cooperation with KyBizInfo.com and the Bluegrass Small Business Development Center, he will speak on the topic of a "Small Business Bounce Back" on Sept. 2 at the Embassy Suites in Lexington.

"The goals for this statewide meeting are to link small business resource partners to small business owners and to provide valuable information and motivation to assist small business recovery in Kentucky," a news release said.

Each attendee will receive a copy of Calipari's book, Bounce Back/Overcoming Setbacks to Succeed in Business and in Life.

The Kentucky Small Business Development Center is a non-profit, statewide network of 15 centers offering consulting and training services to small businesses. The cost for the event is $35 per person, which includes a copy of Calipari's book and lunch. See KyBizInfo.com for more details and to register.

For more information, call Jenny Case at (859) 257-0104, e-mail info@kybizinfo.com or visit KyBizInfo.com.

Athletics, academics

What is it like for UK athletes to balance sports and, you know, college?

That's the subject of an upcoming discussion planned for Sept. 9.

The 90-minute event is scheduled for Room 106 in the White Hall Classroom Building beginning at 3:30 p.m. Titled "Striving to Achieve Goals," the event is free and open to the public.

Joe Fink, the faculty rep for athletics and a professor in UK's College of Pharmacy, came up with the idea. He's seeking better communication and understanding between the academic and athletic worlds.

Panelists for the event are baseball coach Gary Henderson, softball coach Rachel Lawson and volleyball coach Craig Skinner.

Polson scholarship

In case you missed it, UK Coach John Calipari announced on one of the pre-game shows from Canada that he had given a scholarship to Jarrod Polson.

Needless to say, Polson has done well since joining the UK team this summer as a walk-on from West Jessamine High.

"He's having a blast with it," the player's father, George Polson, said. "He's really having fun."

During the games in Canada, Polson showed a willingness, perhaps an eagerness, to mix it up, as evidenced by 10 fouls in 30 minutes.

Calipari noted how well Polson competed.

"I have no problem with Jarrod in a game (this coming season)," said the UK coach, who acknowledged that there might be times he has to get Polson out of a game. "But it won't be because he's screwing us up."

Pinch coach

More than one reader noticed Rod Strickland on the UK bench during the exhibitions in Canada. Wasn't Strickland moved to a non-coaching position during the off-season?

Spokesman DeWayne Peevy explained. "While Orlando Antigua recovers from his Achilles' injury, we are allowed to substitute for him," Peevy wrote in an e-mail.

Happy birthday

To Richard Williams. The former Mississippi State coach turns 65 Sunday.

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