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Kentucky Wildcats Makers Mark Commemorative Bottle Release Info

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A 1978 National Champions Commemorative bottle releases today, with the entire series that will be completed over the next few years, all of them benefitting the Center for Academic and Tutorial Services at UK.

Center For Academic and Tutorial Services Expansion to Open partnership with Maker's Mark, Keeneland benefiting first-of-its kind CATS program

LEXINGTON, Ky. - An expansion of the University of Kentucky's Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (CATS) - the first-of-its-kind support program in the nation - will open this summer on the south side of the Lexington campus. Fundraising for the center, which will be located within the new football training complex adjacent to Commonwealth Stadium, is being augmented by an initiative announced by Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart last spring.

"Our commitment to serving students and positioning them for success when their playing careers conclude is at the heart who we are as an athletics department," Barnhart said. "This unique partnership allows us to continue to give our students the academic support they deserve through CATS."

Maker's Mark and Keeneland are UK Athletics' partners in the endeavor. The goal of the initiative is to raise $2 million for the center through their own contributions and from the proceeds of sales of special commemorative bottles of the distillery's handmade bourbon, the first of which was released last spring featuring legendary coach Adolph Rupp.

The second commemorative Maker's Mark bottle in the series will feature Joe B. Hall and the Kentucky team that won the school's fifth national championship in 1978. Bottles will go on sale through retail outlets throughout Kentucky on Friday, April 8.

"Coach Hall and our 1978 national championship team solidified the legacy of on-court and off-court excellence established by Coach Rupp," Barnhart said. "We are proud they are being honored on this bottle."

In all, there will be a total of five bottles in the series to benefit the CATS program.

"We're so happy to be a part of the CATS expansion," said Maker's Mark Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels. "It's been part of our culture to help worthy causes ever since my grandparents created the brand 60 years ago, and we love being part of this effort along with UK and Keeneland."

Another element to the fundraising effort is a challenge for other companies to raise a matching $2 million. Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason announced last spring that Keeneland would be the first take up the cause.

"The CATS expansion moves the community closer to our goal of excellence in education," Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. "Keeneland, along with UK and Maker's Mark, is committed to this important initiative, and we challenge other businesses to join us."

Any companies or groups wanting to participate in the challenge should contact the UK Athletics office.

Four members of the 1978 championship team - Jack Givens, James Lee, Kyle Macy, and Rick Robey - will be on hand to sign already-purchased bottles on Friday, April 15 at Keene Barn at Keeneland beginning at 7:30 a.m. No bottles will be on sale at Keeneland, and all those participating must be 21 years or age or older. For tickets and more details about the bottle-signing, visit this webpage on the Keeneland website for more information.

CATS - the first center of its kind dedicated solely to student-athletes - provides primary academic support for UK's more than 500 student-athletes. UK has posted a department-wide cumulative grade-point average of better than 3.0 in five consecutive semesters and set school records for graduation rates in every year since the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate was introduced in 2005. In 2014 alone, 94 current and former student-athletes completed their UK degrees.