If They Want More Butts in Seats at Rupp Arena, Increase the Level of Competition
Throughout the month of November, I've seen multiple headlines and a specific blurb (regarding John Calipari) about Rupp Arena attendance this season.
In a word or two, it's down.
EMPTY SEATS IN RUPP ARENA
To be fair, Rupp hasn't been EMPTY; we're just seeing far more empty seats than we usually do. And I did not click through on any of the stories or pursue Coach Calipari's comment any further than I did. I didn't need to. When you play a succession of home games against opponents named Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary's, Ohio (NOT Ohio State), Albany, North Florida, Central Michigan, and Southern, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that folks wouldn't want to pay Rupp prices to see a bunch of gimme games. (Of course, two years ago, the Evansville Purple Aces were supposed to be a "gimme" game, and they waltzed into Lexington and won.)
THE LEVEL OF UK'S COMPETITION
At this very second, as I write this, those seven teams are a collective 13-31 on the season. My apologies to the 5-1 Ohio Bobcats, far and away the best of the bunch AND the only team (of those that UK has played to this point) that has come within 20 points of the Wildcats. They lost 77-59.
I suppose COVID-19 could certainly be a reason some are hesitant to go into an arena, but those used for the big-name neutral site games we've seen so far have been nearly full.
And that's not a bad jumping-off point for another angle to this dilemma. Kentucky is NOT alone in not scheduling high-quality home games in November. The Big Ten and the Big East have already had home tilts against top-notch competition, but that was a scheduled early season event. But they WERE home games.
BUT KENTUCKY IS NOT ALONE
UK fans have grown accustomed to looking forward to that first big game in the Champions Classic against either Duke, Kansas, or Michigan State and then setting the alarm for December. (Kentucky will host Notre Dame on December 11th, its first home "up" game this season.)
As a big college basketball fan, I've really enjoyed watching blue-blood matchups in these sponsored events. Gonzaga vs. Duke, Gonzaga vs. UCLA, Tennessee vs. Villanova, Villanova vs. UCLA. But they're all at neutral sites. Again, the Wildcats are not alone here.
GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
I guess what I'm saying is that now that there are more people coming back into arenas and stadiums to watch live sports--and thank heavens--it would be nice to offer the hoops fans some real meat-and-potatoes matchups. Even in December, Kentucky will only be hosting the Fighting Irish and Louisville. The game against Ohio State will be on neutral ground.
Oh well. One thing to which Big Blue Nation has grown accustomed is how John Calipari does things. And I guess since the 'Cats have been dealing with injuries and illnesses and haven't really fielded a full team this year, maybe the cupcake matchups are what's in order.
But I'm LONG past ready for the steak. I mean, who eats dessert FIRST?