LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- C.M. Newton, the former athletic director at the University of Kentucky who left an indelible mark on college sports, died Monday in Alabama at the age of 88, Kentucky Athletics announced.

Newton had a long career, first playing baseball at UK before joining the coaching rank before the Transylvania, Alabama and Vanderbilt basketball teams. In Kentucky, however, he may have left his largest impression as athletic director, where he guided the UK men's basketball team out of probation in the late 1980s and hired Rick Pitino, who took the Wildcats back to the Final Four.

Newton also paved the way for desegregation in SEC basketball, coaching the conference's first all-black starting lineup in 1973, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. He recruited the first black players at both Transylvania and Alabama.

He also hired UK's first black coaches in men's and women's basketball: Tubby Smith and Bernadette Locke-Mattox. 

"C.M. Newton is a giant in the history of the University of Kentucky, the Southeastern Conference and in the sport of basketball," current UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a new release. "As a student-athlete, he was a national champion basketball player and star baseball pitcher. He returned to his alma mater when he was needed most and provided stability, leadership and growth for UK Athletics for more than a decade. His coaching accomplishments and honors at Transylvania, Alabama and Vanderbilt speak for themselves.
 
"His contributions to the sport of basketball continue to this day. As chairman of the NCAA rules committee, he introduced the shot clock and the 3-point shot. For decades, he worked tirelessly to promote international basketball and was well-rewarded by his election to the Naismith Hall of Fame.
 
"Most of all is the impact he had on thousands of people as a coach, mentor and friend. He understood what it meant to be a servant-leader and will be dearly missed. Our condolences and best wishes go out to his wife, Nancy, his children Deborah, Tracy and Martin, and the family and friends."

Newton is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

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