Unsuspecting scholarship winner describes night at Blue-White game


Leann Calhoun (second from left) poses with John Calipari, Kyle Brubaker and Ellen Calipari at mid court in Rupp Arena after winning a scholarship for the spring 2019 semester at the 2018 Blue-White game. Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

About an hour and a half before Kentucky’s Blue-White scrimmage this past Sunday, Leann Calhoun, a UK freshman who’s majoring in neuroscience, had no plans to attend the game.

A couple hours later, she walked out of Rupp Arena with a guarantee that her in-state tuition would be paid for in the 2019 spring semester by John and Ellen Calipari.

“I did not expect it to be me,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun decided to attend the game with a friend at about 6 p.m., an hour before tipoff.

After arriving to Rupp Arena and settling down in their seats, Calhoun and her friend checked into the game on the BBN Rewards app, putting their names in the drawing for the two scholarships Calipari gives away yearly at the Blue-White scrimmage.

Calhoun had known about the scholarship before the game, but wasn’t thinking about the drawing that much. Instead, she went to Rupp to watch the game and spend time with her friend.

“I wasn’t too worried about it, I’m never one to win things,” Calhoun said.

However, the scholarship drawing was in the back of her mind, and as the game progressed, the more time had passed without the PA announcer sharing the results.

“I had thought they were going to announce it during halftime,” Calhoun said. “Obviously I checked in, so there was a chance I’d get it, but I was just kind of waiting to hear who it was, if I knew them, if it was my friend.”

The PA speaker would announce the winners of the scholarship drawing near the end of the second half, and when they did, Calhoun was shocked to hear her name.

“I looked at my friend, I went ‘Wait, did they just call my name?’” Calhoun said. “I just got up and walked down cause that’s what I was supposed to do.”

Calhoun watched part of the game courtside until she, the Caliparis and Kyle Brubaker, the other scholarship winner, took a photo at midcourt after the announcement. 

Calhoun got to go backstage after the game and see what goes on while everyone else heads home. She got to sit in on Calipari’s press conference with the media and see the lounge to UK’s locker room, where the national championship trophy sits.

Calhoun also got to meet Calipari, which she thought would never happen. 

“It’s one of those things– you know of this person but you never think you’ll be any closer than like 100 feet from them,” Calhoun said. “I was nice to meet him, shake his hand.”

All while this was going on, Calhoun’s phone was buzzing with messages from friends and family. The messages’ content varied from congratulations to shock. 

“I hadn’t even told my friends yet and I just starting getting messages and group messages and texts like ‘Oh my gosh, did you just win?’” Calhoun said. “When I told my mom, she went– she was just kind if surprised, like she didn’t know it was a big deal initially ’cause she didn’t know about the scholarship and I said ‘No, like two people got it out of everyone there,’ and she was like ‘Oh my gosh that’s so amazing.’”

Calhoun said she already plans to attend next year’s Blue-White scrimmage, even if she can’t win the scholarship. As for the upcoming spring semester, Calhoun is appreciative of the scholarship, as it will help her focus more on academics in her second semester of college.

Calhoun is signed up for 16 credit hours next semester, including a biology and chemistry class in her schedule. She also has ROTC classes, and her regular classes for the beginning of her neuroscience degree.

Calhoun expects next semester’s schedule to be slightly challenging, so she’s happy to have her spring tuition covered, giving her one less thing to worry about.

“I can take some of my own funds and put that more towards other things I need as opposed to my tuition,” Calhoun said.