Sidelines with John Clay

UK sports week in review: Basketball returnees, football tickets and London

A review of the past week’s University of Kentucky coverage in the Lexington Herald-Leader:

I wrote that Kentucky football’s season ticket sales numbers show that Big Blue Nation is finally buying in to what Mark Stoops is selling. The 2019 numbers have already surpassed the 2018 total. Last year’s 10-3 record has much to do with that. So, too, does the positive publicity that has followed into the off-season.

The Southeastern Conference announced Friday it is lifting its ban on alcohol sales in general seating areas during athletic events. The decision will be left up to each individual school. UK President Eli Capiluto released a statement saying the school will study the matter before making a decision. Several SEC schools have already announced they will not be selling alcohol at their events.

I wrote earlier in the week that the time was right for the SEC to lift the ban. College football attendance has continued to drop. The thinking is allowing beer sales might get fans back in the seats. Surprisingly, there have been reports of less incidents at schools that allow beer sales because fans are less likely to binge drink before games if they know they can purchase inside the stadium.

Are expanded alcohol sales, rabid fans and referees a bad mix? Jerry Tipton talked to former basketball official John Clougherty about the possibility.

Both EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards announced they are returning to the UK basketball team next season. Richards will be a junior. Montgomery will be a sophomore. Both had put their names in the NBA Draft before withdrawing. Mark Story wrote that for UK fans Christmas came in May.

Mark also wrote that if UK wins the 2020 title, the first ring should go to PJ Washington for setting an example.

Montgomery’s search for his basketball identity will continue into his sophomore season, reports Jerry Tipton. The 6-foot-10 Florida native has terrific potential. He just needs to get stronger and continue to learn to play through contact.

Before Montgomery made his announcement, I wrote a blog post about what Richards’ return means for next UK basketball season. The big man has skills, he just needs more experience playing the game.

Richards joins a rare list of Cats, says Mark Story. Not many of Calipari’s players have returned for a third year.

Brad Calipari, the son of UK basketball coach John Calipari, placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal last week. Brad redshirted last season and will have two years of eligibility remaining. Jerry Tipton looked at what happens next for the younger Calipari.

Ben Roberts reports that Kentucky could be a possible landing spot for Kerry Blackshear, the No 1-ranked college basketball transfer. The former Virginia Tech center withdrew his name from NBA Draft consideration, but said he plans on spending his senior season at another school.

Ben also has an update on the big names in 2020 college basketball recruiting, plus some possible re-classification candidates.

John Calipari raised the possibility of Kentucky basketball playing a game in London. UK in the UK? It could happen.

There are new details about Kentucky basketball’s 2019-20 schedule.

Kickoff times were set for the first three games of the UK football season. The opener against Toledo on Aug. 31 will be a noon start on the SEC Network. High noon in late August? Better bring the sunscreen and lots of water. Hydrate.

Mitch Barnhart says UK football believes it has something to prove in 2019, reports Jerry Tipton. The AD made those remarks to Knoxville sports radio talk show host Jimmy Hyams. Barnhart said the Cats want to prove that last year’s 10-3 record was not a fluke.

I wrote last Sunday that Barnhart deserved his recognition as the nation’s “Athletic Director of the Year” by the Sports Business Journal. In his 17th year at the helm of Kentucky athletics, Barnhart’s program is ranked No. 6 in the standings for overall sports success in 2018-19.

The NBA Finals resumed Sunday night in Toronto. Golden State center DeMarcus Cousins, who saw action in Game 1 coming off a quad strain, hopes to be the first ex-Cat under John Calipari to win an NBA title ring.

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