So, there's a lot of discussion going on in BBN (Big Blue Nation) about scheduling, early-season games, "cupcakes" and the like. I understand the rationale behind scheduling "cupcake" games, but it's getting ridiculous; Kentucky's 2011-12 schedule includes games against Morehouse, Marist, Radford, Portland,Tennessee-Chattanooga, Arkansas-Little Rock, Samford, Loyola (MD), and Lamar. What was once a 'marquee-matchup' game against Notre Dame in Lousiville is now a throwaway game against Arkansas-Little Rock, and UK Coach John Calipari is suggesting that he may move to strike the yearly Freedom Hall game from UK's schedule. I would like to suggest a partial solution to both problems.
There's a LOT of good collegiate basketball in Kentucky, but much of it goes unnoticed. Sure, there are the seven Division I schools (UK, Louisville, Western Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Murray State and (moving up next year from Div2) Northern Kentucky), but we also have tournament-quality men's teams playing in Division II (Kentucky Wesleyan, Bellarmine and Northern Kentucky are all currently in the Top 15), Division III (Transylvania, Centre), and NAIA (Georgetown College, Pikeville). Why not feature these lesser-known teams more often?
What if there were a "Kentucky Hoops Showcase" doubleheader that rotated among the state's largest Division I arenas and featured a D2/D3/NAIA matchup alongside a game between two of the state's Division I schools? Imagine the next four years like this:
- 2012: Kentucky Wesleyan/Bellarmine opening for UL/Murray State in Freedom Hall
- 2013: Pikeville/Centre opening for WKU/EKU in Diddle Arena
- 2014: Georgetown College/Transylvania opening for UK/Morehead State in Rupp Arena
- 2015: Bellarmine/Kentucky State opening for NKU/Murray State in the Bank of Kentucky Center
Sell one ticket for both games to the general public--season ticket holders get to see enough games, so let them buy these separately if they want to attend--and start raising the public's awareness of Kentucky's D2/D3/NAIA prowess to boot. Toss in some other same-day features, like collegiate recruiting fairs for all Kentucky colleges/universities and "fan fair" sorts of games/events, and this could really turn into a great tradition. I'd much rather see something like this than Kentucky playing Arkansas-Little Rock in Freedom Hall. In addition, splitting the ticket revenues with the "small schools" would certainly give them a financial boost, and that isn't a bad thing.
If UK and UL can both schedule Lamar, there's no reason they can't do this.