Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted December 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Kentucky’s gritty test against Providence on the road was no more than demonstration how superior talent prevails over team.

The Wildcats face a string of legitimate opponents this month who won’t be impressed by tiresome media swoon and teevee analytic blow-hards creating a stardom level to exhaust even the wonderfully gifted Julius Randle.

Reality we saw: The Man on Kentucky’s McDonalds all-team is not Randle, nor the Harrison Twins or trigger-itch James Young. It’s sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein.

Show us a player who runs 94 feet, contests every possession (his or theirs), skips the look-at-me stuff, and we see a linchpin who will merit comparisons to Dan Issel and Anthony Davis. Cauley Stein could be a Road Map Man to the success Big Blue Nation expects.

End-of-November view: Heading into what should be college hoops’ first month, the most entertaining team in America is Arizona.

College hoops is still entertainment, isn’t it?


Groundhog Day at Kentucky’s football yard again. Might be said this way on Duck Dynasty: “in the SEC, the dadgum ball just don’t bounce the same down in Dixie as it does up north in Rupp Arena.”

“What IS IT about football at Kentucky?”

Ah, the parade of smiling faces across the pages of another University of Kentucky football media guide. Men made rugged by their own football wars and driven to breathe life into a program Paul Bear Bryant made into a winner then left 60 years ago this month for Texas A&M.

Six decades of roller coaster, NCAA probation, 11 successors to the Bear and excuses. They marched to Lexington with lofty character (sometimes), high hopes, and best intentions to stir the souls of Big Blue Nation. Blanton Collier (1954) to Mark Stoops.

New ideas, new approaches, new stadium, new upgrades (still coming), new practice facilities, new uniforms, new spin, new imaging, new promotions, new whatever-it-costs.

Today, 2-10.

Mark Stoops first team produced a handful of glimmers, but little improvement in the end.

Going forward, first erase these images.

• Flukes happen at Kentucky. Defensive back Jaleel Hytchye intercepted a pass, bobbled it twice then into the hands of Tennessee Jason Croom, who stepped into the end zone, 43-yard touchdown.

• Leadership. Sadly, as his team trailed by three touchdowns, captain and team leader Avery Williamson was flagged for taunting on Senior Night.

“What IS IT about football at Kentucky?”

Nothing new about the question except the unsettling context of its neighborhood.

• Western Kentucky owned the nation’s longest losing streak a handful of years ago. Top of its web site this week: The Tops are bowl eligible. Western’s 8-4 is not a stand-alone winning season. And the Toppers have stung Kentucky twice in two years.

• Louisville (10-1), Vanderbilt (8-4) and SEC newcomers Missouri (11-1) and Texas A&M (8-4) are going bowling. As Wyatt Earp said in the movie Tombstone, “Hurts don’t it?”

• Then, Duke. Heretofore a basketball school, the Dookies are 10-2 and headed to an ACC championship football game.

“What IS IT about Kentucky football?”

Best course going forward?

Announce the official signings of five much touted recruits led by quarterback Drew Barker.


The Heisman mission statement is clear enough to narrow the field.

College football’s best player “who best exhibits pursuit of excellence and integrity.” And, “sense of community responsibility and service to our youth.”

Jameis Winston at Florida State has a lawyer who tells us the star’s alleged rape, in light of DNA evidence: The sex was consensual.

A resume` item for Heisman integrity?

Johnny Manziel’s summer party-time is college kid reasonable. But summer camp drinking and autograph signings 3,000 times rushes up to the Heisman’s integrity clause and smacks its face.

So, we can eliminate Jameis Winston at Florida State and Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, right?

Guess not. Ga-ga coverage of on-field dazzle by Winston and Manziel, coupled with boys-will-be-boys winks from columnists and television personalities across the land, have put into deep shadow their off-field shenanigans.

Neither Winston or Manziel measures up to the the Heisman.

All things considered, the award should go to AJ McCarron at Alabama. He led the Crimson Tide to a pair of national titles and bears no responsibility for what happened at Auburn last week.


√ Poor Andrew Wiggins. Three weeks in the Kansas phenom got a reality check? ESPN’s Dan Dakich pointed out rightly that, in a loss to Villanova, Wiggins appeared indifferent and disinterested. And why not, the NBA draft grows nearer all the time.

√ Watching Arizona take down Duke last week, I wondered if ESPN reduced the decibel-level on Dick Vitals microphone to a whisper. What a good idea.


Did Alabama do Kentucky fans a favor at Auburn last week?

Nick Saban’s final play decision to have his offense on the field for the game’s field goal try might be the biggest gaff since Rick Pitino had Kentucky not defend Duke’s in-bounds pass in Philadelphia 1992?

Could be television promotions of the Run Back at Auburn might replace the Christian Laettner Moment.

And so it goes.