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Rupp Arena had to turn away 5,000 fans for Mark Pope's first press conference

Zack Geogheganby:Zack Geoghegan04/14/24


The Big Blue Nation was at its absolute best on Sunday afternoon. Kentucky fans showed up the morning of Mark Pope‘s introductory press conference as the new men’s basketball head coach — and they just kept showing up as the doors opened an hour before the scheduled 4:30 p.m. EST start time.

In fact, they never stopped showing up, to the point where Rupp Arena had to begin turning fans away from entering the jam-packed building. It was announced on the TV broadcast that roughly 5,000 fans were denied entrance due to the arena — which holds over 20,000 people — hitting capacity.

The press conference was even delayed about 15 minutes to allow every fan in the building a chance to settle into their seat. Even Pope didn’t seem to believe what he was seeing.

For me personally, I walked in around 3:45 p.m. — about 45 minutes out from our expected start time. Half of Rupp Arena was nearly full by this time. On my walk down High Street, I saw the same amount of people I would for a typical SEC matchup on a Saturday. The buzz was something you could reach out and touch.

When this press conference was originally announced, it was mentioned that only seven sections would be opened to fans. Rupp Arena quickly had to change that approach.

By the time athletic director Mitch Barnhart and Pope took the stage, all of Rupp Arena was full. So full that you could see fans hanging on the railings in the upper levels and sitting on the steps in the lowers. I think we all expected a massive crowd, but the reality of what actually happened was more than anyone — UK included — believed was possible.

To be accurate, not all 20,500 seats were made available. Some of the smaller sections near the actual court that are usually open were packed up tight. But even if we take away those 1,000-ish seats from the equation, that still means there were close to 20,000 members of the Big Blue Nation inside Rupp Arena… for a press conference.

It’s been said before, but no lie was ever told: Kentucky fans are crazy.

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