Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Piece of New Orleans comes to Lexington
with Final Four floor in Rupp locker room
John Calipari talks in front of the truck containing the Final Four floor. (Photo by Jon Hale)
When the UK men’s basketball team takes the floor at Rupp Arena this year it will be looking to build upon the first national championship of the John Calipari era.
Calipari has repeatedly cautioned that he has almost a completely new squad this season, and therefore they have no pressure to repeat.
The 2012 championship won’t be too far from his players’ mind though as a portion of the floor from the Superdome was donated by Northwestern Mutual to UK for the newly renovated Rupp Arena locker rooms.
“This floor is going to be a central piece of the locker room area,” Calipari said at a Wednesday news conference. “This is exciting stuff.”
A Northwestern Mutual truck brings the Final Four floor to Rupp Arena. (Photo by Jon Hale)
As the official corporate financial planning partner of the NCAA and a media sponsor of March Madness, Northwestern Mutual was presented the opportunity to purchase the floor. The company agreed to buy the floor for an undisclosed price with the hopes of using it to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
Dan Rivers, managing partner of the Kentucky and Southern Indiana Group of Northwestern Mutual, then brought Calipari in on the conversation.
“When Dan called me and said, ‘Do you have any idea what to do with this floor?,’ I busted out laughing,” Calipari said. “I said, ‘You’ve got the wrong guy. I’ll have some ideas here in a minute.’”
After consulting with representatives of Rupp Arena and the designers of the new locker room, Calipari and Northwestern Mutual decided a portion of the floor would be incorporated into the space. The rest will be cut into smaller pieces, signed by Calipari and auctioned off online.
“Northwestern Mutual is covering all the cost of cutting up the floor into pieces, so that we can say 100 percent of the proceeds will stay here in Kentucky and 100 percent of the dollars will go to fight pediatric cancer,” Rivers said.
The portion of the floor that displays the New Orleans Final Four logo, will be the center point of the locker room. Other parts of the floor will also be incorporated into the entry way, and a mural of key moments from the championship game will be placed on the wall.
“We’re doing some things to really make it almost interactive when you walk on the floor,” Calipari said. “This is the floor we won the national title on in 2012, and that was the free throw Doron Lamb made to ice the game, and this is the free-throw line he shot it at. It will be neat.”
Calipari downplayed the motivational factor the court will have for his current team, but he admitted it would likely have an effect on recruits.
“Yes, it’s going to be a motivating factor in us continuing to get the best and brightest players here,” he said. “Like I’ve said, it’s a players first program, and they drag us where they want to go.”
Calipari repeatedly talks about making UK the gold standard of college basketball programs. Adding the Final Four floor to the new locker room is his latest step in that plan.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of any other locker room doing anything like this,” he said. “But then again, it seems like here at Kentucky we do a lot of things that have never been done.”