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Final Four floor to grace Rupp's new locker room

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Pieces of the floor on which Kentucky won the 2012 national champion were delivered to Rupp Arena on Wednesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Pieces of the floor on which Kentucky won the 2012 national champion were delivered to Rupp Arena on Wednesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Most of the players who led Kentucky to its eighth national championship this past April have moved on to the NBA, but their successors are going to have a constant reminder of their accomplishments.

More than 3,000 square feet of the floor on which the Wildcats won the 2012 national title in New Orleans will be installed in UK's new locker room currently under construction at Rupp Arena. Most prominently, the logo featured at mid-court at the Final Four will fit perfectly in the main circular locker room area.

On Wednesday, those parts of the floor destined to grace the locker room were delivered to Rupp by Northwestern Mutual, the company that partnered with Coach Cal to make it all possible.

"I'm not sure I've heard of any other locker room doing anything like this," Calipari said. "But then again, it seems like here at Kentucky we do a lot of things that have never been done."

The official corporate financial planning partner for the NCAA, Northwestern Mutual was offered the opportunity to buy the Final Four floor. The company's corporate office jumped at the chance and set out to use the floor to raise money for its primary charitable cause: pediatric cancer. Dan Rivers, the managing partner for Northwestern Mutual in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, knew just the man to call.

Rivers contacted Coach Cal and the two immediately began conversations about what to do with the floor. They devised a way to both raise money and commemorate No. 8.

"We're just happy we could cut out a little piece of this iconic floor and really create a memorial to what was a very special season last year," Rivers said.

The floor will be a part of almost an "interactive" experience in the locker room, in the words of Calipari. Pieces of the floor will be surrounded by images from the 67-59 victory over Kansas in the championship game.

"When you walk on the floor, this is it; this is the floor we won the national title (on) in 2012 and that was the free throw that Doron Lamb made to ice the game, and this is the free-throw line he shot it on," Calipari said. "So it'll be neat."

Even with all the pieces in the back of a truck in Rupp Arena, there is still a large chunk of the floor unaccounted for. That's where charity comes in. In a few weeks, details of an online auction will be announced in which the remainder of the floor will be sold to the public. According to Rivers, the floor is set to be cut in several hundred pieces. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the auction will go to fight pediatric cancer in Kentucky.

With the Big Blue Nation involved, it's impossible to know just how much money will be raised, but Rivers expects it to be in the range of several hundred thousand dollars, potentially even into the millions.

"It's going to be beneficial for our state, that's the greatest thing," Calipari said. "Dan stepped up to say I want to use this for charity, I want to use it for you guys and I want this thing to, what we paid for it, I'd like to get 100 times out of it."

Northwestern Mutual will reveal further details about the auction with the next month or so, during which time construction crews will be hard at work making sure the new locker room is finished for the start of the 2012-13 season. Coach Cal can already imagine what it's going to be like when visitors set foot in the facility - styled after NBA locker rooms - for the first time.

"It does motivate when we're bringing families in there and recruits in there and all of a sudden they're like, 'Wait a minute,' " Calipari said. "So yes, it's going to be a motivating factor in us continuing to get the best and the brightest players here."

As for the next batch of Wildcats who will play 18 regular-season games in Rupp this year, Calipari wants them worrying about themselves, not the team that helped put the floor in their new locker room.

"Last year is done," Calipari said. "This is about each team being their best, and that's all I worry about - how do we make this team the best team we can be?"

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