High School Basketball

Coaches, players want boys’ Sweet Sixteen held where Wildcats play, KHSAA commissioner tells podcast host

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett speaks at the 2014 Induction Celebration for the Dawahares KHSAA Hall of Fame in the Bluegrass Ballroom at Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, April 27, 2014.
KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett speaks at the 2014 Induction Celebration for the Dawahares KHSAA Hall of Fame in the Bluegrass Ballroom at Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, April 27, 2014. Herald-Leader

On the latest episode of the “Jung Sports” podcast, KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said the governing body is set to extend its current lease agreement with Rupp Arena for the high school boys’ basketball state tournament and doesn’t foresee the KHSAA’s premier event leaving the home of the Wildcats anytime “on the horizon.”

The KHSAA Board of Control previously authorized a new 10-year agreement with Rupp Arena. Tackett now is in the final-negotiation stage of hammering out that deal, he told host Chris Jung of the Kentucky New Era (Hopkinsville).

Whereas some other possible areas of change in boys’ basketball — such as the addition of a shot clock — can be left in the coaches’ hands, the venue for the state tournament “has to absolutely be a business-driven decision,” Tackett said. Rupp Arena’s capacity is part of why the boys’ tournament won’t move from the venue in the near future, but its ties to the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team also play a big role, Tackett said.

If the University of Kentucky started playing their home games at Transylvania, we’d need to move our state tournament there.”

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett

“You better decide the location of your premier event, that brings in about a third of your budget, you better be deciding that using some pretty objective criteria,” Tackett said. “ ... We’ve got a lot of great educational institutions. U of L’s a great place, EKU, Western (Kentucky), Murray, Morehead. All those are great places.

But right now, if the University of Kentucky started playing their home games at Transylvania, we’d need to move our state tournament there. Our kids, our fans, our coaches ... they simply prefer to play where Kentucky plays. That may change. Things change over the course of time. ... You can never say never, but I think in all likelihood we’re gonna be playing at Rupp for the foreseeable future, again, unless the university comes up with a different option.”

Rupp Arena first held the boys’ state tournament in 1979 and alternated each year with Freedom Hall in Louisville up until 1995, since when it has hosted every tournament. The current lease between the venue and the KHSAA is set to expire in 2018.

Classification of basketball also came up during the show. Tackett has spoken out against classifying the sport in the past and has not budged from that position. He did crack the door open for the move in the future, though, should member schools decide it to be in their best interests.

“I think (no classification) is one of the many things that sets us apart in a positive way,” Tackett said. “ ... I happen to believe that it has proven itself to be the best way to do it. Now, that said, we’re a membership organization. And if the members, you know, by and large, and I mean by a majority number decided they didn’t like it that way, they’d probably have to change it.

“But anybody wanting to change better be fully prepared for what you’re asking for.”

Tackett went on to discuss the financial ramifications of classification, which would likely move money earned and kept by schools during the district and regional tournaments to the KHSAA’s coffers.

“Right now, we are the only state in the country to when you go next week to the district basketball tournament as a fan, and you fork over your five, six, seven dollars, whatever they charge at the gate, you know that all of that money stays within those schools. One hundred percent. Any other state, the state office is collecting a big portion of that. We don’t need to do that because we can rely on the proceeds of the state events.”

Jung Sports Podcast: The Leadership Episode

You can listen to the latest episode of the Jung Sports podcast here or below. KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett appears at about the 48-minute mark.

Some other topics that came up during the 35-minute interview included:

▪  The addition of future sports championships and how the KHSAA goes about sanctioning new sports. During that segment, Tackett stated that it’s “only a matter of time before we have a lacrosse championship” and projected that that could come into existence within the next 5-6 years. (The Herald-Leader profiled the rise of high school lacrosse in Kentucky last May.)

▪  How the KHSAA is trying to remain frugal while celebrating this year’s boys’ Sweet Sixteen, which is the 100th edition of the tournament.

▪  Sports specialization, playing the same sport year-round and overemphasis from parents on their kids playing to earn college scholarships. “If you are good enough to play and earn money to play college, they’ll find you,” Tackett said.

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