PAGE 3 THE CATS' PAUSE, DECEMBER k, 1976
Cats' Pause Publisher
Rupp Arena Awes Fans Then Cats Ho-Hum Badgers In So-So Victory; Bill Loses Battle
The Rupp Arena was filled beyond capacity but don't be surprised if the attendance mark of 23,266 is surpass ed very shortly. There were possibly a couple hundred empty seats in the student section where students apparently obtained tickets then failed to return from the Thanksgiving holidays to see the game.
Fans were stunned with the sight of the mammouth arena and the effect of such a palace on opposing teams should be something else this season
Former coach Adolph Rupp, for whom the arena is named, received a thunderous standing ovation for almost five minutes. The Baron of the Bluegrass probably had more goose bumps than anyone else.
The actual dedication ceremonies for the arena will be December 11 when Kentucky entertains Rupp's alma mater, Kansas.
Rupp, who has been in poor health in recent weeks, was hounded by autograph seekers. Due to his health conditions, he left shortly after the second half started.
All the major pre-season polls are out and most of them tab the Kentucky Wildcats to play much better than their 72-64 win over Wisconsin indicated Saturday night.
The Sporting News picked Kentucky to finish seventh in the country behind top-ranked Michigan, then Nevada-Las Vegas, UCLA, Marguette, North Carolina and Louisville. Filling out the News' top ten behind Kentucky were Indiana and Arizona.
Sports Illustrated placed Kentucky third in the country behind Michigan and North Carolina. The remainder of Si's top ten included in order, UCLA, Nevada-Las Vegas, Arizona, Cincinnati, Marquette, Louisville and Maryland.
Tennessee was chosen for the No. 14 spot in Sports Illustrated while Alabama was tabbed at No. 20 in The Sporting News poll. No other SEC teams were mentioned.
Joe Hall's Wildcats have two crucial games coming up in the near future with Texas Christian University and Indiana.
The Cats entertain TCU Thursday night (December 2) and Hall hopes the jitters of the new arena will be gone by then.
The 72-64 win over Wisconsin was anything but convincing to Hall and the Cat backers. But that was expected to be the case from many corners.
This week, the Wildcat mentor says he doesn't think the Cats will be looking at Indiana when they take on TCU Thursday.
Once the Cats' date with TCU is history, Kentucky will be faced with making a trip to Bloomington and taking on a team that probably deserves higher pre-season ranking than has been accorded them.
True, Bobby Knight's club lost some great ones, but the Hooisers' 110-64 massacre of South Dakota in the season opener gives Indiana fans a preview of the things to come.
If you remember, the Cats had Indiana beat at Freedom Hall in Louisville last year, and then let the win slip out of their hands. It won't be as easy this time around.
Just a note to say that some Kentucky schedules may have the wrong dates on them for a couple of Wildcat games.
After the season's schedule had been made, the Southeastern Conference changed some SEC games and some schedules were already at the printers.
The games affected are Tennessee and Georgia games. Some schedules show Kentucky playing Georgia on January 1 and Tennessee on January 3 and Tennessee again on March 7. All three dates are wrong. Kentucky does not play a game on January 1. The Wildcats play Georgia at home on January 3. The Cats play host to Tennessee on Wednesday, January 12, and play at Tennessee on March 5. The original March 5 Georgia game is now played on March 7 at Athens.
The schedule we recently printed in The Cats' Pause is the correct one with the adjustments already made.
Kentucky's opponent Thursday, TCU, wiped out Mississippi 70-61 and that should be an omen for the Wildcats to be ready. Wisconsin, which doesn't have the reputation for big-time roundball school, just refused to wilt to the Cats and Kentucky was not able to maintain the 20-point lead it rolled up in the first half.
Particularly alarming was the poor free throw shooting where the Cats hit
only 20 of 39 attempts, not a traditional Kentucky trademark. That should improve however.
Football Coach Fran Curci gave his football team the full week during the Thanksgiving holidays and says the team will work out in the weight room this week and go thru final exams next week before returning to head-knocking.
For those of you who have been out of the world for the past three weeks, no, Fran Curci is not discipling anyone. He has a perfect right to return to practice even though the season is over.
Kentucky, again for those of you who have been traveling around the world, won seven games and is on the way to the Peach Bowl for a date with North Carolina on New Year's Even. Now, I didn't say April Fool's Day either.
Be on the look-out for Curci's staff to land some top, top-flight high school recruits in the next few months.
It's the in-thing among many newspapers in the South, particularly in Florida, to knock Curi and the Kentucky program recently. It just so happens that Kentucky is becoming very successful in recruiting blue chip Florida athlets, ala All-American Warren Bryant and others.
And less we forget, there's been a team called "Kentucky" which has nailed the coffin shut for a certain University of Florida in the SEC title race two of the past three years.
It just goes to show how football knowledge some fans have. I think the University of Tennessee fans will discover that Bill Battle wasn't the problem. Battle, who was given the axe following the Kentucky game, is one of the game's finest coaches and he'll return to prove it somewhere, a place where he is respected and appreciated.
Being the class gentleman Battle is, he made it easy for the UT administration by resigning. While his record dipped, especially the last couple of years, I just don't see how anyone can succeed when your own fans are knocking you.
And to think a 7-0 loss to Kentucky was the final straw. Next thing you know, Joe Paterno, Doug Dickey and Charlie McClendon will be looking for a job. And two of those three are playing in big bowls this year.
Following the Kentucky-Tennessee game a couple of weeks ago, we tuned in to a Knoxville radio station on the trip back to Lexington, and the garbage from the announcers about Bill Battle was unbelievable.
I doubt if Battle would have been permitted to stay had he beat Kentucky 30-0, Vanderbilt 40-0 and someone in a bowl game 50-0. They were after his job, and they got it. I hope they never have to earn a living pleasing 80,000 fans week-after-week.
Tennessee's roundballers got off to a blazing start under associate coach Stu Aberdean with a 94-64 win over South Florida last week and All-American Ernie Grunfield pumped home 37 points.
Look for Tennessee to be one of the best in the nation this year with Grunfield, Bernard King, Mike Jackson and Reggie Johnson, a highly -touted freshman.
The Vols, who are without ailing coach Ray Mears, have been underrated by preseason pollsters.
Flight connections from Lexington to Atlanta and vice-versa have all been booked up around January 1 in what is already a heavy airline schedule.
Several charter groups are still in te offing but others may have to travel by car to Atlanta and the Peach Bowl and journey to other cities to get commercial air transportation.
While Kentucky fans are expecting to show their loyalty in huge numbers, reports are that North Carolina will outnumber the Kentuckians at the Peach Bowl. One official said North Carolina has already requested 20,000 tickets while Kentucky is expecting 15,000.
I doubt that Wildcat fans will be outdone. If you're in doubt about making the trip to Atlanta, think twice. You've been waiting twenty-Five years for this one. You've earned it, so get with it.