UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball notebook: Cost main factor in arena decision

In the first week of pondering Lexington Mayor Jim Gray's decision to first look at renovating Rupp Arena rather than building a new downtown facility, one factor seemingly overrides all: Cost.

Obviously, a renovation would cost significantly less than a construction of a new arena. But how much less? And can Rupp Arena be retrofitted, to borrow renovation parlance, to add luxury suites, club seating and any other revenue-generating desires of the University of Kentucky athletics department? If so, where would UK play home games during construction?

Jim Host, the chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority, suggested Florida State as an example of retrofitting. Like UK, Florida State plays home games in a municipal-owned arena, the Donald L. Tucker Center.

In 1999, the arena added 54 luxury suites, 1,004 club seats, new restaurants and improved concourses.

Dave Fronczak, one of the architects that designed FSU's retrofitting, said the project cost $15.1 million. Even if that's 1999 dollars, that's a pittance compared to the $238 million price tag of Louisville's KFC Yum Center.

"There were hardly any new materials that had to be brought in," Fronczak said in explaining the low cost.

According to the design of Tallahassee architectural firm Barnett Fronczak Barlowe, the project essentially involved lifting the upper bowl section by section. With each section raised, workers built the steel structure for the luxury box, then lowered the seating section.

"Actually pull it up like you'd pull an engine out of a car," said Fronczak, who likened the section-by-section renovation to "if you renovated a house one room at a time."

During the one year of construction, the building continued to operate. Affected fans were moved to other areas of the arena, Fronczak said.

Whether this might be feasible for Rupp Arena would be up to Lexington government, UK and Lexington Center Corp. to decide.

The need to be mindful of cost seems beyond dispute.

Joe Peek, a faculty representative on UK's Board of Trustees, liked the renovation idea for that reason. He applauded the "tremendous analogy" voiced by Host, that Rupp Arena should be preserved in a renovated form because it carries a mystique like baseball's Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.

Besides, Peek said, UK had more pressing needs than a new basketball arena. For instance, $200 million in maintenance that had been deferred.

"My building is not one of the oldest buildings," Peek said, "and we have continuous roof leaks over and over and over. ... There are guys up on my floor that had buckets in their office."

A few years ago, word circulated that UK — the school — could not afford replacement light bulbs. When asked if this was true, Peek said, "We could use the kind of light bulbs they put over people's heads in cartoons."

That meant creative thinking, a talent all the more necessary in the current economic climate.

'Hillbilly image'

USA Today published a story on Jan. 20 that ought to make all fans take a step back and think. Sportswriter Steve Wieberg wrote about how the NCAA had strengthened security for president Mark Emmert at the organization's convention earlier this month.

Controversial decisions on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, Ohio State football players, Southern California's football program and Kentucky freshman Enes Kanter led to threats made against Emmert.

"Via phone and e-mail and social networks, Kentucky followers have been particularly outspoken, flooding Emmert's Facebook page with so much vitriol that the NCAA was compelled to block posts by outsiders," Wieberg wrote.

Bob Williams, the NCAA vice president for communications, told USA Today that one e-mail Emmert received warned him, "You'd better check your car."

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr., an outspoken critic of the Kanter decision, went to a recent NCAA Board of Directors meeting intent on getting answers. When he returned, he declined an interview request. Perhaps the threats made against Emmert made Todd put the Kanter decision in a new perspective.

Todd also declined a request to talk about the threats from UK fans.

Todd, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and Coach John Calipari issued statements that criticized the Kanter decision. But all stopped well short of going ballistic like politicos that talk of "Second Amendment" solutions and call followers to reload.

Peek deplored the threats. He said he understood why making Kanter permanently ineligible riled UK fans. UK fans had every right to voice objections, he added. But making threats was going too far.

"It really makes the state of Kentucky look bad," Peek said. "It's an embarrassment."

Peek noted how such threats reinforced negative images of Kentuckians.

" 'Hey, you're a bunch of bums that don't care about anything but your sports there,' " he said. "It feeds on that hillbilly image, and we don't need that. Kentucky has been the laughingstock of the nation a number of times recently. We don't need that again."

Caring NCAA

The NCAA draws plenty of criticism for supposedly enforcing its rules in a heartless way. UK officials suggested as much in reacting to the Enes Kanter ruling.

But the NCAA did itself some public relations good last week when it granted a number of waivers from its rules in quickly helping Kansas player Thomas Robinson, whose mother died on Jan. 21.

The NCAA allowed Kansas' athletics department to pay for Lisa Robinson's funeral expenses. The NCAA also allowed Kansas to pay for the team's flight to Washington, D.C., for Thursday's memorial service.

"The NCAA has been unbelievable and responsive in a quick way," Jayhawks Coach Bill Self told the Lawrence Journal World. "We understand that they have rules. They are trying to make as many allowances as they can. ...

"In this situation, the NCAA is looking out for (Robinson's) welfare. I can't say anything remotely negative about the way they've handled it."

Lisa Robinson was just 43 when she died in the Washington, D.C., area.

On Friday, Kansas released a note of thanks from Thomas Robinson. It included information on how to contribute to the Lisa Robinson Scholarship Fund, which was set up to help the player's younger sister Jayla attend college someday.

Contributions can be made to the Lisa Robinson Scholarship Fund, c/o SNR Denton, 1301 K Street NW, Suite 600, East Tower, Washington, D.C. 20005-3364. The Scholarship Fund will be administered by Christopher "Kit" Smith of SNR Denton U.S. LLP and other fiduciaries selected by SNR Denton.

Contributions to the Lisa Robinson Scholarship Fund are non-deductible for tax purposes.

One and dones

The Associated Press took a guess as to which freshmen would enter this year's NBA Draft. The list included:

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State. He had already been Big Ten Player of the Week four times.

Perry Jones, Baylor. AP predicted he will be Baylor's first one-and-done player. He is projected by most to be a top-three NBA pick.

■ "Kentucky trio of Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter (sort of)."

Josh Selby, Kansas. He had to sit out the Jayhawks' first nine games. He was also fined for accepting impermissible benefits related to his family's association with Carmelo Anthony's business manager.

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina. His draft status has slipped as he struggled with shot selection and turnovers.

Tristan Thompson, Texas. The Canadian leads the Big 12 in blocks (2.3 per game). He also leads the Longhorns with 23 steals.

Alcohol: UK rule,SEC rule?

The talk of a new arena last week led inquiring minds to think of Louisville's new KFC Yum Center and wonder. The Yum Center's features include bars.

So if Kentucky had a new arena, could there be alcohol sales?

The answer is no. The 2010-11 Southeastern Conference Game Management Manual states that "no alcoholic beverages shall be sold or dispensed for public or private consumption anywhere in the facility. Furthermore, the possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages in the public area of the facility shall be prohibited."

Exceptions are made for private leased areas or other areas designated by the SEC.

The league also bans advertising displays mentioning or promoting alcoholic beverages in facilities.

Self-deprecating coach

Self-deprecation usually wears well. Alabama Coach Anthony Grant used it to good effect last week.

Columnist Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News heard Grant speak at the Birmingham Tip-Off Club. During the appearance, Grant and the audience watched a video showing him fumble over the word "perseverance." He combined "perseverance" and "resilience" and came up with "persevilience."

Blarin' horn

After referees failed to call a 35-second shot-clock violation against Tennessee, Georgia officials decided to order louder horns for Stegeman Coliseum. That note from last week needed updating.

It turns out that the new horns were not immediately available. So Georgia officials improvised. They placed microphones near the existing horns to enhance the sound.

Mashburn: Stay in school

On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Beshear and first lady Jane Beshear joined educators, business leaders and former UK great Jamal Mashburn in urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would gradually increase the mandatory attendance age for high school students from 16 to 18.

"I struggled during my early high school years, but encouragement from my family and teachers pulled me through," Mashburn said in a news release. "I know how hard it is for young people who don't complete their high school education — and I want to do everything I can to help kids realize they need to stay in school."

The release from Beshear's office noted that, on average, dropouts earn about $6,800 less annually than high school graduates. Almost 6,000 Kentucky students dropped out in 2009, with nearly 26 percent of adults statewide currently possessing less than a high school education.

Bucking the odds

The East-West imbalance continues. Going into this weekend, the SEC Eastern Division had four teams with top 20 RPIs (No. 11 Kentucky, No. 14 Florida, No. 17 Vanderbilt and No. 19 Tennessee). Georgia was in the top 50 at No. 44 and South Carolina was No. 85.

By contrast, the Western Division had only one team inside the top 100: Ole Miss at No. 77. The rest of the West was No. 107 Arkansas, No. 131 Alabama, No. 177 Louisiana State, No. 182 Mississippi State and No. 310 Auburn.

Despite those numbers, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant refuses to join the prevailing view that the entire SEC West is likely to get shut out of the NCAA Tournament.

"I don't think that very many people thought that Auburn football would win the national championship this year," he said.

Glaring omission

A story last week about Jarrod Polson failed to mention his two younger sisters. Ashley is a high school senior and Alysee is a sophomore.

Happy birthday

To former UK big man Rick Robey. One of the cornerstones on the 1978 national championship team turns 55 Sunday.