As we move forward with scheduling and get close to releasing our 2012-13 slate, I want to talk to the Big Blue Nation about how it came together.
When we schedule, I want to create experiences, not just games. The thing about Kentucky basketball is it’s passed down from father to son. I want to schedule events that grandfathers and grandsons will be talking about 25 years from now. That’s part of what Kentucky basketball is about; part of what has made this place so unique. Those experiences mean our fans can go to those games in addition to another 20,000 fans that never get to go to the games.
We also want to create experiences for our players that prepare us for our 18-game Southeastern Conference schedule, which includes the addition of two NCAA Tournament teams in Missouri and Texas A&M. With that being said, we want to have a tough nonconference home game and a tough nonconference road game every year.
We are adding North Carolina back to the schedule for the 2013-14 season. The game will be played opposite of our Louisville series (when we play Louisville at home, we’ll play North Carolina on the road, and vice versa). Roy Williams and I both agreed this was a good year to take a break. We both look forward to continuing this series in 2013-14 for two more years and beyond.
I am currently in conversations with Coach K of Duke for a multi-year, neutral-based series that will be played around the country in the best facilities. The games would take place on the same weekend every year and would be THE GAME to watch. Obviously we’re playing Duke this season in Atlanta in the second year of the Champions Classic, as well as Maryland in the brand new Barclays Center. We are playing Michigan State in Chicago in 2013-14, and we’re working on finalizing an event that we hope to have in Lucas Oil Stadium that same year.
In 2013-14, we’re going to pull off another one of those “Only at Kentucky” moments when we do a first-of-its-kind doubleheader with our women’s program at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Matthew Mitchell’s team will play Baylor, who won this year’s national championship, in the first game, and then we’ll follow it up with our game against Baylor’s men’s team, who we had to get past last year in the Elite Eight to make the Final Four.
The tickets will be split down the middle for that game, and we hope to break the NCAA attendance record. It’s an opportunity for both of our programs to do something that has never been done before – TO CREATE EXPERIENCES for our players and fans.
Baylor will return the game to Rupp Arena this season on CBS. We will also be going on the road to a Big East opponent this season.
Let me be clear: It is important that we play in at least one if not two football stadiums every year to prepare our players for NCAA Tournament venues. Not every program can play a regular-season game in a stadium like we can. The NCAA Tournament plays half its regional games and the entire Final Four in those venues. Who do you think will be in those domes and stadiums? It will be us. I’m convinced we would have won the title two seasons ago if we would have played in a dome during the regular season. Our guys weren’t prepared for it.
I like the fact that both the Duke game at the Georgia Dome in 2012 and the Baylor game at Cowboys Stadium in 2013 are the Final Four sites for those years.
There may be years that we add teams to the schedule based on our league and our team, but generally speaking, this is what we’ll do. We will play a national nonconference home game and a national nonconference road game to prepare us for the 18 SEC games, as well as three to four Kentucky experiences at neutral sites, including one or two at football stadiums that will prepare us for the NCAA Tournament and our fans will have access to.
I love sharing with the Big Blue Nation what we’re doing whether we’re talking about scheduling, recruiting or how we teach our players, but one thing I want you to understand is that by doing this, I’m also sharing with all the other schools that are trying to catch up with us. There are some things I won’t share to protect our program, but I felt like this was important to the Big Blue Nation.