Salt Lake City brings back memories of Sutton

My first trip to Salt Lake City – where you fly in to cover a game in Provo, Utah – was in 1985, and it turns out that’s where Eddie Sutton coached his last games of the NCAA tournament for the University of Arkansas.

We stayed at the Utah Hotel, which is now a historic landmark. Before the first game, Sutton celebrated his 49th birthday in the restaurant at the top of the hotel with his family, the whole team, a few friends and yours truly.

He ordered for everyone, starting with the snails. It required every player to try at least one, and chateaubriand, which needed no rush to devour it.

It was a tumultuous season, as Sutton and the late athletic great Frank Broyles feuded.

Before the first game, Tom Gulley and Ted Harrod, friends of Sutton and Broyles and big supporters, brought the two together in a room, and after two hours it appeared that things were settled.

Arkansas defeated Iowa 63-54 in the first round and lost to St. John’s 68-65 in the second. Kentucky was also in the area, and apparently some of the search committee members were looking for Joe B. Hall’s replacement. He had announced his retirement before the season.

Search committee members, wearing matching blue sports jackets, attended both Arkansas games, but in the loss to St. John’s, Sutton was so upset with the officiating – which was pretty awful – he came off the bench and sat in the stands for a minute. He had already done it once during the season.

Kentucky lost to St. John’s, which made the Final Four in Lexington, Ky., giving the Big East three teams in the final.

The Final Four is when basketball coaches have their annual convention, so Sutton was there for the April 1 clash when Villanova upset Georgetown.

He came by a few minutes before the start of the championship and asked what time my flight was the next day.

I arrived home just in time to hear Sutton on the radio accepting the job in Kentucky, something he regretted for the rest of his life, as the job came with unrealistic expectations and a life in a fish bowl.

. . .

After Alabama struggled at home in a 24-20 win over Texas A&M, Associated Press pollsters bumped the Crimson Tide from No. 1 to No. 3 with just 11 first-place votes.

Georgia went from No. 2 to No. 1 with 32 first-place votes and Ohio State went from No. 3 to No. 2 with 20 first-place votes.

Alabama remained No. 1 in the FWAA/NFF Coaches Poll and Super 16.

However, Las Vegas must not have been too impressed with the Tide now having a 5-4 chance to win the SEC behind Georgia which is 5-6.

Tennessee is third and Ole Miss fourth, but after those four the majority of the others are at least 100-1 and Arkansas is 200-1 to win the league title. Vanderbilt, Missouri and Auburn are last at 1,000-1.

. . .

In Wednesday’s column on undefeated teams, the showdown between No. 3 Alabama and No. 6 Tennessee this Saturday in Knoxville was left out.

Call it a brain freeze watching the Seattle Mariners take a 4-0 lead over the Houston Astros, who won it in the bottom of the ninth on a Yordan Alvarez three-run homer.

The Tide and the Vols were a fierce rivalry that was usually played on the third Saturday in October.

The series is intense, and Alabama had a narrow lead at 43-38-7 until Nick Saban arrived in Bama and won 15 straight games.

Josh Heupel is the Vols’ sixth head coach since Saban was hired at Alabama.

Rocky Top will ring through the mountains, but is there really home field advantage against Saban?

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