Game at Ford Field could draw 80,000
DETROIT -- How big will the crowd be at the game they're calling "Basketbowl?"
Well, there will be so many fans that most will have trouble figuring out whether the game starts with a jump ball or a coin toss.
The eighth-ranked Wildcats will play the No. 21 Spartans on a 3-foot platform above the 50-yard line.
"It's going to be wild," Michigan State guard Chris Hill said. "We've played in domes, but usually, the court is in the end zone and there's a curtain that cuts off half of the seats. It's going to be different to play in the middle of a big football stadium.
"I can't even imagine what it's going to be like playing in front of so many people."
About 600 Kentucky and Michigan State band members will blare their fight songs behind the baskets, instead of just a dozen toting tubas and trombones from the home team's pep band.
With no seats behind the baskets, thousands of students will stand -- and jump -- on the artificial turf to watch the action and be seen by a national television audience.
High-rollers have paid $500 each for seats on the court. A slew of standing-room only spectators will watch from the concourse between the bottom and top levels. Others have spent $8 just to say they were there -- even if they're so far away the players look like ants.
The basketball attendance record is 75,000, set in 1951 when the Harlem Globetrotters played at Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
The NCAA attendance record is 68,112, set in 1990 at the Louisiana Superdome when Notre Dame played LSU. The NBA record is 62,046 from a Chicago-Atlanta game at the Georgia Dome in 1998.
It's not the first time the Spartans have tried to set an attendance record.
Michigan State played Michigan in hockey two years ago at Spartan Stadium before 74,554, a world-record crowd for a hockey game.
When former Michigan State basketball coach Jud Heathcote heard about it, he told associate athletic director Mark Hollis, one of his former student managers, he better top the feat for the basketball team.
During a Lions game last fall, Hollis, associate athletic director Greg Ianni and Ford Field executive Dave Glazier came up with the idea to bring basketball to the downtown arena, which will host the 2006 Super Bowl and 2009 Final Four.
"It will be unorthodox and unique playing in a place like Ford Field," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "I am eager to see how our players respond to that type of atmosphere."
After costs of $1.5 million, Michigan State will net about $1 million from the event, five times the amount it makes for games at the Breslin Center. Kentucky will take home a guaranteed $100,000, four times more than it would have made playing in East Lansing.
Shortly after Detroit lost to the San Diego Chargers last Sunday, workers started laying down planks of wood on the turf to set up the 16-month-old venue for its first basketball game.
In addition to the 65,000 spectators Ford Field holds for a football game, there will be more than 5,000 Michigan State students on the field along with hundreds of band members and nearly 5,000 fans in other seats.
Kentucky sold about 2,500 tickets to its boosters, but Hollis expects to see many more Wildcats fans than that.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said it may be difficult separating the game on the court from the spectacle around it.
"There's going to be so much around the game," Izzo said. "And there's more pressure on us because of the situation we're in."
The Spartans started the season in the top five, but after losing to Kansas, Duke and Oklahoma, they've plummeted in the rankings.
At 3-3, Michigan State is off to its worst start since 1995-96, Izzo's first season as coach.
Kentucky (4-0) has a chance to win its first five games for the first time in 11 years.
The Wildcats are coming off a win against UCLA, despite shooting 27.1 percent from the field, their worst shooting effort since losing to Georgetown in the 1984 Final Four. Even with the unusual site lines at Ford Field, Smith is not concerned about his team's shooting.
"If you are focusing on the rim, which most players do, then they shouldn't have a problem," he said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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