As one of the most visible, prestigious and dominating programs of all-time, the University of Kentucky has helped shape the way the game of basketball has been played and evolved. Below are a number of rules changes which were made over the years, in which the Big Blue played some role. Some of these may not necessarily be officials rules, but might include other rules such as NCAA guidelines, recruiting rules and even television practices.
- Shot Clock
The shot clock was put into effect in the mid-80's. Although many blame Dean Smith and his infamous Four Corners for the introduction of the shot clock, Kentucky did play some role in its introduction.
In 1983, Kentucky was invited to play the University of Cincinnati in the River City. Kentucky agreed and traveled to the game with a highly touted squad. The game was broadcast nationally on ESPN. Tony Yates, the Cincinnati coach, decided that his team was completely outmatched and decided to stall nearly the entire game. Kentucky was able to win the game 24-11, however it was one of the most uncomfortable games to watch of all-time.
After this game and other notable games that season, the resistance to a shot clock was finally broken and a rule for a 45-second clock was instituted for the 1985-86 season.
- 10-second Rule
As the Kentucky teams of the 1930's continued to grow under the tutelege of Adolph Rupp, they found that their games were increasing becoming susceptible to stall tactics from the opposition. This infuriated Rupp, who thought it detrimental to the future of the game for teams to be able to avoid playing, simply because they didn't have the talent to compete.
Rupp lobbied to change the rules to eliminate the stalling tactics wherever he could, including coaching clinics and annual coaches meetings. One suggestion, by James Naismith the founder of basketball, was to institute a 30-second shot clock. This was not adopted (until 1985 as mentioned above), however one rule which was passed was to make it necessary to cross from the back court into the front court within 10-seconds. This change did not solve all the problems in speeding up the game, but it was a step in the right direction.
- 3-second Rule
The 3-second rule, adopted in 1936 was passed to reduce the roughness in the paint between big men. It came about in some part due to a game between the University of Kentucky and New York University in 1935, won by NYU 23-22.
This game was the first time UK Coach Adolph Rupp took UK to New York City to play in Madison Square Garden. He was taking one of the greatest big men of the time, Leroy Edwards who would garner All-American honors that year and be named to many "All-1930's" teams. What Rupp failed to do was to take one of his referees (a common practice at the time), against the advice of Notre Dame coach George Keogan, who had lost to NYU the week prior and warned Rupp of the discrepancies in officiating between the Midwest and the East.
The game was a rough one, with UK unable to run their normal offense (which consisted of using screens) without being called for a foul. To make matters worse, Irving Terjesen and Irwin Klein draped themselves over Edwards, allowing him to score a mere 6 points (the lowest output of his career). The New York Post had this to say after the game. "The score says that NYU is the best college basketball team in the country and that the East is still supreme. But if Frank Lane, the ref from the Midwest, had worked the game, it's safe to assume big LeRoy Edwards would have been given a fantastic number of foul shots. Minor mayhem was committed on the person of Edwards by Terjesen and Klein. Something will have to be done or the game will become entirely too rough."
The rough play of this nationally important game helped lead the way for the 3-second rule to become adopted.
NCAA and SEC Rules & Practices
- NCAA Bids
In 1950, the defending national champion Wildcats were 25-4 and being ranked #3 in the nation, expected to receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament. Instead, #5 ranked North Carolina State received the bid after the person in charge of making the selections was invited to North Carolina to watch the Wolfpack's season finale. In part due to the outcry over the situation, the following year the NCAA expanded their field from 8 to 16, where conference champions for 10 conferences (Big Seven, Big Ten, Border, Ivy, Missouri Valley, Pacific Coast, Skyline, Southeastern, Southern & Southwest) were automatically invited (a first).
- Home Court in NCAA
In 1984, a highly ranked Kentucky squad barely survived an upset bid from #6 ranked Illinois in the NCAA Regional final, which just happened to be hosted in Lexington, KY. The closing moments of the game came down to a disputed play over what Illini Coach Lou Henson thought was a travel by UK guard Dicky Beal. Henson claimed that it was impossible for his team to win under those conditions. The NCAA instituted a rule for the 1985-86 season that no home team can play in the same regional that they are hosting. Later in 1988, the same rule was applied to all games (including first round games) due to perceived favortism for Syracuse playing in the Carrier Dome.
- Conference Seedings
In 1986, the SEC received 4 invitations to the NCAA tournament. #1 seeded Kentucky, # 5 Alabama, # 8 Auburn and # 11 LSU. Apparently not thinking much of the others chances, the NCAA committee placed UK, Alabama and LSU all in the Southeast Regional and Auburn in the West. All teams ended up advancing to the Sweet 16, with Kentucky having to face Alabama for the fourth time in the season (UK won all 4 contests that season). UK then had to face LSU for a fourth time (they had beaten LSU 3 times that season) in the Elite 8. However, the Wildcats couldn't turn the trick again and they went down by two points 59-57.
Incidentally, Auburn also made it to the Elite 8 that year, and would have faced the winner of the LSU-Kentucky contest if they had gotten past the Louisville Cardinals (who ended up winning it all). Soon after, the NCAA instituted a policy that teams from the same conference would not be placed in brackets such that they would meet each other before the regional finals.
- SEC Tournament
In the early 1950's, the Southeastern Conference voted to discontinue the SEC Tournament, starting with the 1952-53 season. Many of the members voted for this because it was felt the tournament infringed on the start of spring football and because Kentucky, which had won 13 of the 19 tournaments ever played, so thoroughly dominated the event that it was not considered worthwhile. The tournament would not be reinstituted until 1979, when even the football-crazy SEC schools figured out that a post-season tournament could generate revenues for the schools. This practice handicapped UK severely as they went 25 years without a tournament, which prevented them from a number of potential victories and allowed schools (and coaches) from other conferences (which did hold post-season conference tournaments) to gain ground in terms of all-time wins.
- High School Tryouts
Perhaps a little known fact, but UK Coach Adolph Rupp was not a natural recruiter. In the heydey of the program, he didn't need to go out and recruit, as he had players from all over the country sending letters and traveling to Lexington to see if they could get on the team. In the summers, Rupp used to hold tryouts of a multitude of high school players, from which he picked a handful to enroll at UK and play on the freshman team. The others scattered to whatever other schools would take them (of which quite a few went on to have outstanding careers elsewhere). In 1950, in large part due to the complaints of other SEC coaches, the NCAA banned the practice of tryouts by high school athletes.
- Wildcat Lodge
Wildcat Lodge was a dormitory built entirely with fan donations and opened in 1978 across the street from Memorial Coliseum as a place for UK's basketball players to retreat from being in the spotlight on campus. When built, it was considered one of (if not the) poshest athletic dormitories in the nation. With luxury areas, extra-large beds, individual rooms and showers being some of the amenities, it caught the eyes and attention of everyone, including the NCAA. The NCAA soon stepped in and decreed in 1979 that Wildcat Lodge was in violation of a rule which stated that college athletes could not receive better accomodations than what was available to regular students. Kentucky claimed that the rule was put into effect after the Lodge was built, however went ahead and accepted non-athletes into the Lodge in order to comply with the NCAA regulation. In addition, the over-size beds were removed, all residents were required to share a room, fancy sections of the lodge were shut off from use and personal bathrooms were locked in favor of communal bathrooms.
Later in 1991, the NCAA passed a tougher rule which was designed to eliminate athletic dormitories altogether. It stated that any dormitory, hall or floor cannot have more than 50% of its residents as student-athletes.
- Senior Day on Television
One of the most cherished days by UK fans is senior day when the seniors will run through a hoop to center court where they are greeted by family, the coach might say a few words and the entire stadium sings 'My Old Kentucky Home' by Stephen Foster. At one time, the networks would carry this, with more than a few announcers mentioning it was one of the most touching ceremonies they have seen in sports. After a number of opposing coaches complained that it gave an unfair recruiting advantage to UK, either the NCAA or the networks made a point to NOT show this ceremony on national television.
- Probation Television
When UK was put on probation in the late 1980's, they were banned from having their games televised live during the season. Nothing was said about tape delay broadcasts. The local station which held the broadcast rights began to show the games tape delayed around midnight after the game was well over. It turns out that the television ratings for these tape-delayed broadcasts was nearly as high as regular years. The NCAA later changed the rule to forbid showing tape delayed games of teams on probation.
- Off-Campus Scrimmages
Kentucky used to hold inter-squad scrimmages around the state, in order to give more fans a chance to see the team. The idea proved a good one as the games were packed and helped to secure support for the Wildcats throughout the state. No other team could make money in this way (although Indiana tried), so they complained to the NCAA and the practice was banned.
- Tennessee's Home Ticket Package
In 1987, Tennessee completed the Thompson-Boling Arena for basketball. At a capacity of 24,535, it was designed to be a bigger venue than UK's Rupp Arena to the north. Unfortunately for the Volunteers, they were never able to come close to selling out the arena for men's basketball, even on good years. During the annual UK-UT game in Knoxville, Kentucky fans made good use of the vacant seats by buying up the extras. The sheer number of UK fans threatened to overtake the UT fans on-hand. In response to this embarrassing dilemma, the UT ticket office decided to do away with selling individual tickets for the UK game, instead bundling the ticket with 3 or 4 other games. This in effect forced UK fans to pay 3 or 4 times the amount of money just to see the UK game. Many UK fans took this offer, and donated the remaining tickets from the package to charity.
Return to Kentucky Wildcat Basketball Page.This page written by Jon Scott