There have been numerous flashbacks or memories in the past SEC men’s tournaments, but the 1979 tourney in Birmingham, Ala., will always be a special one to me for three reasons.
— It marked the renewal of the conference tournament after an absence of nearly three decades. The last league tourney had taken place in 1952 in Louisville where Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats defeated LSU 44-43 in the title game. The SEC had decided to host its post-season event for two primary reasons: 1) Extending the tourney champion an automatic bid to NCAA tourney, while giving the conference schools that didn’t fare very well during the regular season another chance for a Big Dance trip and 2) money.
— It was my first time covering a major event as a student reporter working for a campus daily newspaper while at UK. My Kentucky Kernel colleague John Clay, now a longtime sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, and perhaps student writer Brian Rickerd tagged along (he couldn’t remember if he rode with us or not) and we borrowed my mother’s Pontiac Bonneville to make the six-hour journey to Birmingham.
Pictured are coaching rivals Joe B. Hall and Dale Brown during last Saturday's UK-LSU matchup at Rupp Arena. Hall's Wildcats once upset Brown's Tigers in the 1979 SEC Tournament in Birmingham. Photo by Jamie H. Vaught