Still #1

When the TV cameras showed the seats in the first two days of the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament, UK fans have told me that they thought the New Orleans Arena was overrun with blue-clad members of Big Blue Nation.

A closer look showed that everything was blue, but it was empty seats with blue backs.

There weren’t UK fans. The first several minutes the guys calling the game didn’t mention all of the blue seats, but finally they did and said, “But don’t worry, the Kentucky fans will be here tomorrow.”

But with UK not playing until the third day, that meant a second day with very few fans. Apparently fans of other SEC teams were all at home thirsting for the start of spring football practice.

The Southeastern Conference was formed in 1933 and the first SEC tournament was held in Atlanta.

So few fans showed up that the SEC skipped a season and tried again for two years in Knoxville. Same story. This was football territory, Padnuh!

Another try two more years in Knoxville and the fans still weren’t excited so the SEC decided to come to basketball country and assigned the 1940 tourney to Louisville.

The Jefferson County Armory, the biggest basketball house in the state, proved to be a big success.

Walnut Street (now Muhammad Ali Blvd.) and Fourth Street, had the Kentucky, the Watterson and Seelbach hotels just two blocks away filled with fans. So was the Brown at Fourth and Broadway. The YMCA at Third and Broadway was available for $1.25 a night!

Big hit in Louisville

Eleven consecutive years of successful tournaments were held in Louisville, which saved the event.

It is time for the SEC to give Louisville a chance to save the tournament one more time.

Jim Host,who headed the birth of UofL’s KFC YUM! Center is on record as saying another SEC Tournament will never happen in Louisville. Period.

Now wait a minute! Lexington and Louisville officials are on record as saying that they will cooperate on bringing events and companies to both cities.

There’s no reason that Louisville and Lexington can’t make a successful bid to get consecutive SECs.

Here is some inside information that might help. The first available year is 2019 or 2020.

The most influential man in SEC basketball is C.M. Newton, the former player and athletic director at UK.

His position with the SEC is not full time. There is no reason that Louisville interests couldn’t hire Newton as a lobbyist. No one connected with the SEC is more competent and respected than C.M.

Hall for Hall!

It’s nice that Joe B. Hall has been honored by his election to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

The man who replaced a legend, Adolph Rupp as Kentucky’s coach will be inducted Nov. 18 in Kansas City, Mo.

I’ll never forget the day when Joe B. called me and invited me to a home in western Louisville the next morning and requested that I bring a photographer.

It turned out to an historic day when Rupp and Hall signed 7-foot Tom Payne of Shawnee High School.

It was clear that signing the first black basketball player at Kentucky was Hall’s idea, not Rupp’s.

When Payne married his high school sweetheart, Hall and his wife became surrogate parents, even cooking Thanksgiving dinner for them.

Host also honored

Jim Host also was voted into the college basketball hall of fame as a contributor. “Biggest surprise of my life,” said Host, calling the honor “the culmination of my career.”

Another honoree is Joe (String Music!) Dean, a New Albany High School graduate who was elected as a player at LSU, a TV analyst and director of athletics at his alma mater, LSU.