By LARRY VAUGHT
If Kentucky could pick anywhere other than Rupp Arena for the Southeastern Conference Tournament, my guess is that Nashville would be the first choice. And now it certainly seems likely that may just happen.
The tournament was played again in Nashville last March when the Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt in their first game to set the stage for a NIT bid — and first-round loss at Robert Morris.
Now SEC commissioner Mike Slive is sure sounding like Nashville could be the permanent hope for the tournament.
Slive said Tuesday that league athletic directors voted unanimously to “authorize the conference to explore a primary site for the men’s basketball tournament.” He didn’t say “permanent,” but that’s certainly what it looks like.
There is certainly precedent for that. The football championship game and baseball tourney both have permanent hopes — and both have been successful.
“We’ve been very successful with our permanent site in football in Atlanta. We’ve been very successful in our permanent site in Hoover (Ala.) in terms of baseball, so the ADs (athletic directors) felt it was time for us to explore the possibility of a primary site for the men’s basketball tournament,” Slive told the Associated Press.
The SEC tourney is already slated to be played in Nashville in 2015, 2016 and 2019 after returning to Atlanta in 2014. Recent tournaments have also been played in Tampa and New Orleans. No site has been announced for 2017 or 2018, but one has to think that could easily be Nashville now, too.
Kentucky fans like New Orleans, Tampa and Atlanta. But they love Nashville. It’s a short drive for most Big Blue fans and the downtown area has plenty for fans to do. There are hotels in all price ranges and some UK fans can even drive back home or a few miles outside the city to attend.
Big Blue fans enjoyed having the football team play in the Music City Bowl. Kentucky should have a horde of fans in Nashville Aug. 31 when the Mark Stoops’ era begins when the Cats play Western Kentucky — and new coach Bobby Petrino.
The question could be how well other SEC athletic directors — and coaches — like the idea of UK having a distinct advantage with the tourney in Nashville. Sure, UK will have more fans in Atlanta, New Orleans or Tampa than other teams, too. But having the tourney annually in Nashville will make it even easier for the Big Blue mist to cover Nashville.
So what do you think? Are you in favor of the tourney moving to Nashville permanently and would it give UK an edge?