Photo: Kentucky Athletics

Kentucky will host Southern on Dec. 7 in Rupp Arena as a part of the inaugural Unity Series with the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

The five-year series will feature annual games against schools from the SWAC.

Beginning in 2021 and concluding in 2025, the games will seek 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,” UK head 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.”

In the week leading up to the game each year, the Unity 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.

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“We are committed to educational initiatives here at UK so the Unity Series’ educational and networking opportunities will play a part in one of our goals, which is adding to learning resources. We also believe in the power of community so we hope this series will increase awareness of the powerful history and ongoing missions of HBCUs as well as conferences like the SWAC. We look forward to strengthening bonds between our institutions.”

The Unity Series week will culminate with the annual game in Rupp Arena.

“The Southwestern Athletic Conference is extremely excited to partner with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program on unifying initiatives that will significantly raise the overall awareness of the missions of our 12 member institutions and HBCUs as a whole,” SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said. “The educational and networking opportunities this partnership will provide our students and student-athletes undoubtedly goes well beyond the game of basketball. 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.”

Courtesy: University of Kentucky Athletics


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