ATLANTA -- The Southeastern Conference and ESPN have signed a 20-year agreement through 2034 to create and operate a multiplatform network, which will launch in August 2014, it was announced today by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and ESPN President John Skipper. The new network and its accompanying digital platform will air SEC content 24/7 including more than 1,000 events in its first year.
The network will televise approximately 45 SEC football games, more than 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games, 75 baseball games, and events from across the SEC's 21 sports annually. Programming will also include studio shows, original content such as SEC Storied, spring football games, signing day and pro days coverage. Hundreds of additional live events from various sports will be offered exclusively on the digital platform. The network and its digital extensions will connect with each SEC institution and create opportunities for each school to produce and develop content.
"The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms," stated Slive. "We will increase exposure of SEC athletics programs at all 14 member institutions, as we showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league. The agreement for a network streamlines and completes an overall media rights package that will continue the SEC's leadership for the foreseeable future."
Each weekend throughout the season, the new network will air multiple top-tier matchups from the strongest conference in college football. Since 2006, the SEC has claimed seven consecutive football national championships. In 2011-12, SEC teams won eight national championships: football (Alabama), men's basketball (Kentucky), gymnastics (Alabama), men's indoor track and field (Florida), women's tennis (Florida), women's golf (Alabama), men's outdoor track and field (Florida), and softball (Alabama). Since 1990, the SEC has won 149 national team championships for an average of more than six per year.
Skipper said, "The SEC is unmatched in its success on the field and its popularity with fans nationwide. The new network's top-quality SEC matchups across a range of sports will serve all sports enthusiasts including the most passionate, die-hard SEC fans. Also, it will serve the needs of our multichannel distributors and advertisers by providing extremely attractive programming options across all platforms."
As part of the agreement, ESPN will now oversee the SEC's official Corporate Sponsor Program. In addition, ESPN and the SEC also agreed to extend their existing media rights agreement through 2034. ESPN has televised the SEC since 1982. ESPN's existing networks present more than 1,600 hours of SEC action each year. The new network will focus exclusively on the SEC and add another outlet to deliver sports fans more SEC content than ever.
AT&T U-verse® has been secured as the network's first national distributor. AT&T U-verse is the fastest growing TV provider in the U.S. and their subscribers will have access to an unprecedented amount of SEC content across all platforms. Subscribers receiving the live linear network via a multichannel subscription will also have access to the network on PCs, tablets, smartphones and select gaming devices like Xbox. Additional games and coverage will be available through an authenticated digital offering. Fans looking to learn more about how to get the SEC Network can visit GetSECNetwork.com for more information.
"We are pleased to be involved with the SEC and ESPN at the very beginning of this great alliance," said Jeff Weber, President of Content and Advertising Sales, AT&T. "As the fastest growing and most advanced pay TV service, we want to bring our customers the highest value and most compelling product that we possibly can. Access to the SEC Network, across multiple platforms, will only increase the demand for U-verse."
ESPN's Justin Connolly, formerly senior vice president, ESPN affiliate sales and marketing, will oversee the network's day-to-day operations. The network will originate from ESPN's Charlotte, N.C., offices with additional staff located at the company's Bristol, Conn., headquarters. Staff announcements and additional details will be made in the coming months.
UK is 20th in Directors' Cup standings in the fifth season of Mitch Barnhart's 15 by 15 by 15 Plan. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
UK Athletics is on pace for its best-ever finish in the Directors' Cup.
Learfield Sports released updated Directors' Cup standings following the conclusion of winter sports and Kentucky checks in at No. 20. UK scored 343 of its 511 points in the winter thanks to contributions from rifle, women's basketball, gymnastics, swimming and diving and indoor track and field.
Kentucky is fourth in the standings among Southeastern Conference schools and leads all schools from the Bluegrass state. Louisville is a spot behind UK in 21st.
UK has steadily improved in Directors' Cup standings since Mitch Barnhart arrived as athletics director. UK was 29th in two of the last three seasons after coming in 50th in 2002-03, Barnhart's first. UK's best finish in the 20-year history of the Directors' Cup is 26th in 1996-97.
The Directors' Cup was established in 1993-94 by the National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics and USA Today to rate the top athletic departments in the country, taking into account all NCAA-sanctioned sports.
Barnhart keeps a close watch on the rankings, including them in his 15 by 15 by 15 Plan. He set a goal nearly five years ago for UK to win 15 conference or national championships by the year 2015. After rifle's conference championship this winter, UK has won 11 titles.
With spring sports baseball, softball, outdoor track and field, men's and women's tennis and men's and women's golf still having opportunities to earn points, UK has a shot at cracking the top 15 in the Directors' Cup a couple years early.
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart addresses student-athletes, coaches and staff at the 2013 CATSPY Awards. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Mitch Barnhart spends a lot of time thinking about what he will say at the CATSPY Awards. After all, it was he who brought the annual celebration to UK Athletics and each year he serves as the keynote speaker before the student-athletes, coaches and staff assembled in Memorial Coliseum.
But this year, UK's athletics director had to do some last-minute scrambling. This year, Barnhart received some news that altered the message he wanted to send.
On Friday, Barnhart learned that former Oregon State linebacker Tevita Moala had lost his battle with cancer at age 37. Moala played college football more than a decade ago at a school thousands of miles from Lexington, which would seem to make his passing sad, but far removed from UK.
Barnhart sees things a different way.
"He's touched our program at UK and you would never know it," Barnhart said.
You see, Moala made a play during the 1999 season and its effects are still being felt today. On Nov. 6 against California, he snatched up a fumbled snap and sprinted 24 yards for a touchdown, clinching a 17-7 win and Oregon State's first winning season in 29 seasons and first bowl berth in 34. The next year, Oregon State would play in the Rose Bowl.
"He had an electric smile and an incredible passion for the game," Barnhart said. "Had he not made that play, Oregon State does not build its program, allowing us to do things we'd never done before at that university and affording me the opportunity to come to Kentucky with many others in this room, coaches and staff."
Barnhart would have been touched by the death of a young man he came to know regardless, but it was the symmetry between Moala's memorable play and the CATSPYs that made him change his speech at the 11th hour.
"Tonight, we're celebrating moments like that and trying to figure out how we can create more," Barnhart said.
It's that duality that makes the CATSPYs unique.
The event draws inspiration from the ESPYs and entertainment award shows like the Grammys, Oscars and Emmys. But those others are all about recognizing achievement from the preceding year, while the CATSPYs are as much about inspiring future achievement.
That's why motivating addresses from women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell, volleyball coach Craig Skinner and gymnastics coach Tim Garrison were interspersed with emotional award presentations by women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz to star sophomore Arin Gilliland (Blue Heart Award) and Joe B. Hall to long-time athletic trainer Walt McCombs (Lifetime Achievement Award).
That's why Barnhart took to the podium before the night's most prestigious individual awards - Mr. and Miss Wildcat - were given to Luis Orta and Chelsea Oswald of UK cross country and track and field.
Barnhart touched on a few themes, including leadership, tough love, sacrifice, emotion, training, passion and legacy, but he closed with a word that didn't seem on its face to fit with the rest: almost. His message was that almost is not good enough.
When he came to UK from Oregon State in 2002 with memories of Tevita Moala fresh in his mind, almost would have been a significant improvement for many of the school's 22 varsity sports. Since then, UK Athletics has made remarkable strides, winning national championships and positioning itself for a record finish in Directors Cup standings in 2012-13. That merits recognition, and that's why Barnhart believes the CATSPYs are so important.
But the days of setting improvement as the goal are gone. UK Athletics is aiming much, much higher.
"We've done a lot of great things in the last year and over the last decade," Barnhart said. "That's now just the foundation. We're on a new journey and much more is expected."
The 2013 DanceBlue marathon raised $1,113,189.42 for the fight against cancer. (photo via DanceBlue)
For 24 hours in a row, University of Kentucky students danced away their Friday and Saturday, and it was all for a great cause.
Memorial Coliseum played host to the eighth annual DanceBlue marathon, where a record $1,113,189.42 was raised for the fight against pediatric cancer. After the final total was revealed on Saturday evening, participants learned of a $500,000 endowment fund started by the late Joy Wills, who beat cancer three times and supported DanceBlue during her life.
"This year, with a record number of 800 dancers, DanceBlue was able to raise over $1.1 million for the Golden Matrix Fund to support cancer research at the Markey Cancer Center and child-life initiatives in the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic," said Ethan Ritter, DanceBlue's 2013 Overall Chair. "It was a wonderful 24 hours that united our entire campus and state."
Include UK Athletics in that too.
Wildcat student-athletes, coaches, teams and the department at large lent their support in myriad ways. Multiple coaches - including John Calipari and Matthew Mitchell - took to the stage to encourage dancers, one of whom was former UK wide receiver La'Rod King. Any visitors to the marathon left in awe of the dedication and passion of the participants.
"I was blown away by the number of students in that gym Friday night dancing and raising money to fight pediatric cancer," Coach Cal said. "As I told them Friday, they may never do anything more meaningful than what they did with DanceBlue. It is hard to do something by yourself, but to come together like they did and raise more than a million dollars warms my heart. It will make a tremendous difference in the fight against cancer."
The women's soccer team took an even more active role.
The women's soccer team presented a check for $4,000 at the DanceBlue marathon. (UK Athletics)
In September, the Cats held their second-annual "Kick Cancer" match. Inspired by a young fan who lost her battle with brain and spinal cord cancer, players wore special gold jersey that were later auctioned off. In addition, $1 from each ticket sold to UK's match against Mississippi State was set aside. With that money, the women's soccer team presented a check for $4,000 to DanceBlue.
"It means a lot for us as a team to be able to give back to the Lexington community and donate to something that we strongly believe in," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "Allison Berger was someone who touched all of our hearts and so we will continue to do everything we can to fight this awful disease in her honor. Yes, we want to win games and win championships, but just as important is winning off the field, and this cause means a lot to our players, coaches, staff and university."
The donation by the women's soccer team instigated a little good-natured competitiveness from a fellow UK program. Volleyball head coach Craig Skinner, in addressing dancers, announced his team would hold a match of its own next season to benefit DanceBlue.
"I personally challenge Coach Lipsitz the volleyball team will raise more money than the soccer team next year," said Skinner before going on to propose the losing coach shave his head. Lipsitz may want to amend that wager considering he has substantially more hair to begin with.
Friendly jabs aside, DanceBlue - which has raised more than $5 million since its inception- has grown into something few could have imagined when it began in 2006. That good work will surely continue with or without the involvement of UK Athletics, but that involvement is appreciated nonetheless.
"The support from our athletic community was terrific," Ritter said. "Visits from our coaches got our dancers excited, the only thing they cheered more for were our clinic families. Our continued use of Memorial Coliseum for the event and the special events hosted by teams like women's soccer shows that UK Athletics truly takes interest in supporting events that improve our community."
Men's basketball - Following its most complete victory of the season within SEC action, the Wildcats conclude its two-game road swing through the Heart of Dixie at Alabama on Tuesday. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer turned in another 17-point performance, while classmate Ryan Harrow reached double figures for the eighth straight game and dished out a UK career-high eight assists in the win. Freshman Nerlens Noel continued his imposing defensive prowess with a career-high seven blocks to couple with 10 points and nine rebounds. - Alabama enters the matchup following a one-point victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Anthony Grant-led Crimson Tide are 11-6 overall on the season and own a 3-1 record within SEC play.
Women's basketball - No. 5 Kentucky improved to 18-1 overall, 6-0 in the SEC with commanding wins over Mississippi State and Auburn last week in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats are now riding a school-record 33-game home winning streak and the nation's longest overall winning streak at 17. - The 100-47 win over Mississippi State was the largest margin of victory over an SEC opponent in school history. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth led four players in double digits with a UK career-high 25 points in just 24 minutes of action. Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies followed with 21 points. UK forced 25 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 46-20. - In UK's "We Back Pat" game vs. Auburn, defense was again the name of the game. The Wildcats held the Tigers to just 21 first half points, taking a 51-21 lead at the break. Mathies led the way with 16 points in the opening stanza. She went on to notch her second straight 20-point game with a season-high 24 points on a near perfect shooting night. Mathies hit 8-of-9 from the field, including 5-of-6 from the 3-point line and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Gymnastics - The No. 14 University of Kentucky gymnastics team defeated No. 9 Arkansas in convincing fashion in front of more than 5,600 fans inside Memorial Coliseum on Friday. - The Wildcats took the meet 195.5-193.075 while winning every team and individual event. - The Wildcats continued the unprecedented start to the season as Friday's win gave the program back-to-back SEC wins for the first time ever. All four wins this season have come against higher-ranked opponents. - Kentucky is off to the best start in school history as the Wildcats have never before topped 195 in all three meets to begin the season. - Audrey Harrison stole the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic show winning the individual all-around competition for the second consecutive week. The Knoxville, Tenn., native's season high 39.275 was highlighted by her 9.9 to anchor on uneven bars with a score, which ties for her career high. - Harrison won individual titles on bars and floor exercise (9.85). The junior now has four event titles this year and 11 all-time.
Rifle - Kentucky knocked off two top-15 teams over the weekend in Oxford, Miss., defeating No. 11 Ole Miss (4670 - 4611) on Saturday and No. 10 Memphis (4646 - 4598) on Sunday. - Senior Heather Greathouse led the Wildcats in their win over Ole Miss, shooting an 1176 aggregate score. Freshman Connor Davis delivered a 594 in air rifle. - Senior Ed Ryznar had a strong showing in Kentucky's win over Memphis, shooting a 574 in smallbore and 588 in air rifle. - Sophomore Cody Manning recorded a new personal best aggregate score of 1162 in Sunday's match with Memphis.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team got off to a 2-0 start to the 2013 season with two 7-0 wins over Northern Kentucky and Morehead State. - The pair of wins were the first in the head coaching career of Cedric Kauffmann. - No. 15 Tom Jomby and No. 94 Anthony Rossi each earned singles wins on Sunday, while Jomby and Kevin Lai went 2-0 on the day in doubles. - UK next takes to the court on Wednesday at No. 22 Indiana in Bloomington for the Wildcats first of 15 matches versus ranked teams in 2013.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team opened the 2013 season with two dominating wins, defeating Morehead State 7-0 and Belmont 6-1 on Saturday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita opened her collegiate career with two singles wins in the No. 1 spot and two doubles wins paired with junior Caitlin McGraw in the No. 1 doubles slot. - Sophomore Stephanie Fox failed to drop a set in two singles wins on Saturday, taking both contests 6-0, 6-0.
Tuesday, Jan. 22 Men's basketball at Alabama - 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 23 Men's tennis at Indiana - 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 24 Women's basketball at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 25 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Men's tennis hosts Michigan State - 1:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Alabama - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 26 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Swimming and diving host Louisville - 12:30 p.m. Men's basketball hosts LSU - 4:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Texas/South Carolina
The Kentucky cheerleading team's bid for its 20th national championship fell just short Sunday night. The Wildcats were named runners-up to 2013 UCA Champions University of Memphis.
In 2012, head coach Jomo Thompson and Kentucky had returned the title home to Lexington after Alabama defeated them in 2011. Sunday night in Orlando, Fla., UK fell just shy of repeating as national champions, but a missed stunt, according to the official twitter account of the UCA, likely made the difference in the end.
"It is just unfortunate," said Thompson. "It's just one of
those things that happen. Just disappointed, but I'm very proud of our effort.
I thought we executed well."
Kentucky finished ahead of Alabama, Central Florida and Mississippi who rounded out the top five.
Head coach Dawn Walters and the UK dance team were also in Orlando this weekend competing in the Pom and Hip-Hop dance events.
UK had a solid performance Sunday, earning an eighth-place finish in the Pom competition. The dancers add to that performance with a sixth-place finish in the Hip Hop division, an improvement from an eighth-place finish in 2012.
"The biggest thing I think was that so many people complimented us and were just like, 'Wow, you guys were awesome,' " said Walters. "It was great to hear other great teams talk about us and notice us."
The battle in the Pom division was close as eighth-place UK was just one full point out of fifth place with little separation in between. Kentucky was the lone Southeastern Conference representative in the final eight in the Pom event.
In the Hip-hop performance, UK had to overcome some adversity when it had to turn to an alternate dancer right before the competition with one of the dancers pulling out during warm-ups. Kentucky still managed to put on a memorable performance, pulling off maneuvers that only a few teams attempted on the night.
UK Athletics congratulates both teams on their outstanding achievements this weekend.
The UK cheerleading and dance teams will compete at the UCA/UDA Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship this weekend in Orlando, Fla. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
The 2013 UCA/UDA Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship is this weekend, which means the Kentucky cheerleading team will be pursuing a record 20th title on Saturday and Sunday. The cheerleaders spend most of the year supporting UK's 22 varsity teams in competition, but this is their chance to step into the limelight.
Led by head coach Jomo Thompson, the cheerleaders brought the title back home to Lexington in 2012 after seeing their bid for a four-peat undone by Alabama in 2011. This year, the Wildcats will be looking to extend their latest streak to two championships. UK has won 19 of the 28 UCA national championships dating back to 1985 and 15 in the last 18 season, an unprecedented level of dominance for a program steeped in tradition.
The UK dance team will be at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., competing in both the hip hop and pom dance categories. The event begins on Friday, but the UK cheer and dance teams will not perform until Saturday.
According to the schedule published by the UCA, the Division IA pom and hip hop dance semifinals will take place at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively. The cheerleaders will compete at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Division IA semifinals. Finals for all three competitions are on Sunday.
Make sure you follow @UKAthleticsNews on Twitter for updates as results come in, particularly beginning at about 7:30 p.m. when results are announced and stay tuned for a story here on Cat Scratches late on Sunday evening. If you are interested in finding other ways to follow along, check out this page on the UCA website.
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's vision of reinventing Commonwealth Stadium has never been closer to becoming reality.
On Thursday, Gov. Steve Beshear and legislative leaders in Frankfort, Ky., announced their strong support for University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto's plan to pursue bonding self-finance a "dramatic $275 million transformation of the UK campus." UK Athletics and its football program figure prominently into those plans, as a $110-million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Training Facility is in the works.
"This is critical," Capilouto said in a video message. "The success of our football program is how athletics remains one of the handful of financially self-sufficient programs in the country. It's how athletics funds millions of dollars in academic scholarships and other University needs each year."
The project will provide for a reinvention of the game-day atmosphere at Commonwealth and will be paid for entirely by the athletics department. Funding the improvement will be made possible by the 16-20 suites and approximately 2,000 club seats to be added. Capilouto reported that there is already a waiting list for this new premium seating.
Construction will begin this year and is estimated to be complete by July 2015. When all is said and done, Commonwealth's current capacity of 67,942 will be maintained or slightly reduced while the value of all remaining seats will be enhanced. This will be accomplished by improving concessions, restrooms and security.
Other planned additions through the project include a multi-purpose recruiting room, new home team and press facilities, a team store and a new full-service kitchen. At the Nutter Training Center - the hub of UK football - upgrades will be made "for the daily benefit" of student-athletes.
"This important measure is possible because of the leadership of our athletics director, Mitch Barnhart, and his commitment to running a highly successful program that is financially self-sustaining, that gives back to the institution, and that always places integrity first," Capilouto said.
Not only will UK Athletics fund the Commonwealth and Nutter renovations that are vital to the health of the football program, Capilouto also announced on Thursday that the athletics department will play a key role in the construction of the new Academic Science Building. UK Athletics will fund $65 million of the estimated $100-million project.
"We will do something very few universities in this country have done ― utilize the incredible brand that is our athletics program to help fund their needed facilities improvements and also one of our most important academic facilities," Capilouto said. "Our current science building is the second-most utilized classroom space on campus. It is outdated and contains neither the classroom nor research space we need. This will change that."
Big news on Thursday as a plan to transform the University of Kentucky campus was announced by President Eli Capilouto with support from legislators. The projects include $110-million renovations to Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Training Facility. For more on that, check out this post on UKnow, watch the video below visit BBNunited.com.