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Volleyball looks to shatter national attendance record at Big Blue Madness

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The University of Kentucky volleyball team has a chance to make history the UK athletics department announced Monday evening. For the first time in program history, the volleyball team will play a regular season match on the floor of Rupp Arena on Oct. 12.

If that date sounds familiar, it's because Big Blue Madness happens to be that night as well.

The process started a couple of months back when volleyball head coach Craig Skinner, who has been trying to make this event happen for the last few years, ran into men's basketball head coach John Calipari and approached him with his idea. Cal was all for it, and it materialized from there.

The match will be the opening act to an evening full of "Madness," as if the event wasn't already chock-full enough with Blue and White already. Now, the event grows even bigger and has allowed another sport and Kentucky team to share the big stage.

And by big stage, I mean potentially the grandest stage to ever host an NCAA volleyball match. That's right. The current record for attendance ever to watch a volleyball match is 17,430, which occurred Dec. 18, 2008 during the NCAA semifinals at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. Rupp Arena seats 23,000.

You do the math.

Last season, UK was tripped up by Mississippi State midseason down in Starkville, Miss. That, too, happened to be during Mississippi State's version of Big Blue Madness, known down there as "Maroon Madness." The match broke the single-match record for Mississippi State with 4,535 Bulldog fans in attendance.

As fate, and the schedule, would have it, Mississippi State is due into Lexington on Oct. 12, this year's date of Big Blue Madness. Almost exactly one year later, Kentucky has the chance to return the favor while hosting potentially five times the amount Mississippi State had during its madness celebration.

A record crowd of 23,000, or anything near it, would not only break the national attendance record, it would shatter the program record of 9,475 which took place Oct. 29, 1993 in Memorial Coliseum against Louisiana State. That event also took place at what was then called "Midnight Madness."

As fans begin to lineup around UK volleyball's current home at Memorial Coliseum this week in the traditional campout for Big Blue Madness tickets, Skinner hopes his program can continue to build their own tradition while riding the coattails of the national champs. A win at Rupp Arena over the Bulldogs could go a long way in making this one-time event an annual occurrence if all goes as planned.

With what normally marks the official start of basketball season in the Bluegrass, the volleyball team now has an opportunity to make its own mark on a basketball-hungry fan base. The significance of this event could make waves for the Kentucky volleyball program for years to come as prospective athletes look to be a part of such a special match that only the Big Blue Nation could pull off.

The match will kick off an extravagant evening of Big Blue events starting at 5 p.m. at Rupp Arena. Only fans with tickets to Big Blue Madness will be permitted to the volleyball match. Those with volleyball season tickets purchased prior to Sept. 13 can RSVP to the UK Ticket Office by Sept. 25 for replacement tickets. For more information on tickets and the event, visit UKAthletics.com.

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