Well, here we are about putting the cap on 2013 and we’ll bust it right open in 2014. Merry Christmas to the Big Blue Nation and the rest of ya’ll. As I was digging through my archives, I found these old UK programs and thought it would be cool to share with you. I love the vintage advertising, the creative covers, and yes, the beer advertisements in the programs. Shocking that they had beer advertising in the ole programs.
And yes, you will notice that these programs are from the UKIT in the eighties. The UKIT was a 4 team holiday tournament in December. I remember going to them as a young Wildcat fan, and I thought it was the best! The UKIT was usually two weeks/a week before Christmas and it was like you were on sensitivity overload. I remember seeing the Christmas trees lit up in the Civic Center, Victorian Square and Festival Market. Your heard Christmas carols, saw Santa Claus dressed in a blue suit, and you got to see the Wildcats in action! As a little kid, this stuff was a big deal. And I would go back home in good ole Northern Kentucky and tell all my friends. For some reason, it was difficult for them to wrap the minds around basketball and Christmas. Regardless, I loved it!
The UKIT was started back in 1953 as the Wildcats took on Duke in the inaugural tournament. The Cats pulled out a victory 85-69 over the Blue Devils. The next night, the Cats defeated LaSalle, 73-60. Some of the teams that came to Rupp to play in the UKIT: Duke, Ohio State, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Army, Navy, and Indiana.
Overall, the CATS were 64-10 in the UKIT, and there were some team that got the best of the Cats. 12/21/55 Dayton was #4 in the nation and defeated #7 Kentucky, 89-74. West Virginia ended up beating the Cats twice within a two year span. 12/20/57, the Mountaineers defeated the Cats in the first round, 77-70. The Cats got their revenge in the 1958 UKIT Championship game on the Mountaineers with a 97-91 win. The following year in the UKIT, West Virgina defeated the Cats in the championship game, 79-70.
The final UKIT came on 12/23/89 as the Cats took on the Ragin’ Cajuns from SW Louisiana. And what a finale! 1989-90 was Rick Pitino’s first year as the coach of the Wildcats. A skinny pasty white kid from Paintsville, Kentucky by the name of John Pelphry poured in 24. Another Kentucky kid, Derron Feldhaus gave the Cats 17. Feldhaus also led the Cats with 10 rebounds. Derrick Miller was great that night with 19 and Reggie Hanson chipped in 13, unfortunately, the Cats went down to defeat in an overtime classic, 116-113.
With recent criticism of students not filling seats in Rupp and the attendance numbers being down, why not bring back the UKIT? Fans complain that home schedule is weak. Well here is a way to bulk it up a bit at home. It does get a little old seeing lesser competition come into Rupp, but you know what? Some of that lesser competition has provided a couple of entertaining games this season. Boise State and Belmont. Cal talks about preparing a young team for March. Here is your chance. Play 2 games in 2 days. Hell, invite some of the in-state schools. EKU, WKU, Morehead, Georgetown, Transy, NKU, Murray. You want to talk about creating a buzz? You want to talk about putting fans in the stands? You want to generate some excitement with Rupp?
Bring back the UKIT.
What the hell do I know though. I’m just a UK fan reminiscing about what the holiday season meant to me as a young Wildcat fan.