LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sean Woods is returning home.
The former University of Kentucky standout and his Southern men's basketball team will visit Rupp Arena on Dec. 7 in a "Unity Series," the first of a five-year agreement with the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The conference, which features historically black colleges and universities, will partner with the Wildcats "to raise awareness of the missions of the HBCUs and to raise funds to provide opportunities for students at their institutions."
"I am really proud of our leadership for identifying an opportunity to take what we do on the basketball court and leverage it into an annual weeklong event that will have a major impact on HBCUs and their students," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "My hope is this event not only opens the door for opportunities for students at HBCUs, but that others at our school and across the country will take advantage of the educational opportunities that we will put together to continue the meaningful conversations and changes that have taken place over the last year."
Woods is looking forward to returning to Rupp Arena. He led Kentucky in assists in his three seasons of action but he particularly shined during the memorable 1992 season. After helping UK win the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles, he played a big part in UK's run to the East Regional finals. The 1992 All-Regional Team selection recorded 21 points, nine assists and scored the go-ahead basket with 2.1 seconds left against Duke in what many consider the greatest college basketball game of all-time. The Blue Devils won in improbable fashion on Christian Laettner's well-documented last-second shot.
"It's always nice to go back home and take your players to a place where you played at," Woods said. "I've always wanted my guys to have the same kind of experience I had as a student athlete and what better place to take them than to one of the most historic places in college basketball, Rupp Arena. Looking forward to being competitive and having a chance to win too, but not only that to have a chance to play in front of family and friends and take my guys to a place where it all started for me."
Woods played against the Wildcats while he was coach at Mississippi Valley State and Morehead State.
The week before each event, the series will feature educational and networking opportunities at UK and SWAC institutions. Campus leaders from Kentucky and SWAC schools will host virtual panels and leadership workshops available to students at all institutions that tackle current issues in multiple disciplines and highlight on-campus educational opportunities. In addition to these panels and workshops, the institutions will provide resources for students to learn more about internships, career planning and networking.
"Our philosophy in the diversity, equity and inclusion division of UK Athletics is opening up areas of opportunities, education, listening and learning," said Rock Oliver, executive associate athletics director for diversity, equity and inclusion at Kentucky. "This series featuring HBCUs, starting with a great institution like Southern University, will provide those universities with a spotlight on the biggest stage in college basketball. This year's matchup with Southern is even more special for me because I coached Southern head coach Sean Woods. We are honored to play a part in providing access to our powerful platform."
The Southwestern Athletic Conference is also looking forward to bringing its member institutions to Rupp Arena in the future.
"The educational and networking opportunities this partnership will provide our students and student-athletes undoubtedly goes well beyond the game of basketball, " SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said. "We're looking forward to doing our part to make this innovative strategic plan a success. We would like to thank the University of Kentucky Athletics Department's leadership along with Coach Calipari and his staff for making this very worthy initiative a reality."
Southern is 0-1 vs the Wildcats as the two schools have met once before. Kentucky defeated the Jaguars 99-84 in the 1988 NCAA Tournament, but the game was erased from the record books as a part of sanctions imposed upon the UK program in 1989.