Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted January 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Happy New Year, Charlie Strong.

Football in Texas is like football in Brazil, nationalized and a little nutsy. Texas is a nation isn’t it? And basketball is Little Brother too.

Meanwhile (most) Louisville football fans were gracious, wished their ex-coach well on his job jump. Media-types went along. Paid homage to a 25-million-dollar-man.

Just business, man.

Strong helped elevate UofL football into a player on a national stage. The Cardinals won all but two games last two years, pummeled a couple big dogs at the end of each and were headed to greener grass, Atlantic Coast Conference.

He involved himself in the community, became a celebrity, insisted his student-athletes behave, and, from all accounts, brought to the Commonwealth a role model extraordinaire in Teddy Bridgewater.

But, 25 mill. just business, man.

Media, certainly in Jefferson County, gave Strong a free pass for job jumping. No call to account for his clandestine meeting Texas Director of Athletics Steve Patterson.

All of it led me to believe Strong was a different brand of ball coach. Happy with his program’s growing national image, financial security, high place in community. Peace of mind.


Just another ball coach who sang the feel-good tune to alums, fans, prospects and players about commitment, dedication, responsibility and do-the-right-thing. The chorus was same: Show-me-the-money.

√ Expendable, UofL returnees and 25 high school and JUCO commits for 2014.

√ Expendable, sweetheart extension with UofL to end of decade.

Just business, man.

ESPN talking heads and others media swooned. “25 million for five years, wow!”

Big money for ball coach, bigger money for institutions. While, simmering on the back burner, athlete-students who still want to know, “where’s mine?” And, “why do I have to sit out a year when ball coach job jumps?”

Ignored in the Strong-to-Texas story, the Cardinal faithful who must be as cynical as an internet poster on Sunday: “I appreciate what he’s done for the program, but I’m getting tired of coaches using UofL as a stepping stone job. It’s getting old. I hoped he’d be different, but I guess I was wrong.”

A Sports In Kentucky reader offered a cautionary note: “from my experience dealing with men from Texas, Strong is in for a culture shock. There’s the USA and then there’s Texas. And, they’ll tell you that,” he wrote. “The football job at Texas is like Alabama and Ohio State. You better not lose and fans prefer you win them all by 30.”

So, in the end Louisville’s Secret Santa has gone to Texas.

Last word for Strong from Kentucky? Maybe Curly Bill Brocius said it best to Wyatt Earp in the motion picture Tombstone: “Bye.”

Louisville football? Still Stepping Stone U.


Now that the Wildcats have grown up, says John Calipari, Big Blue Nation can enjoy a fun run in January. Seven winnables, four at home. Three on ESPN, two on CBS Television.

Best tests: Tennessee Jan. 18 and at LSU Jan. 28.

For Louisville, January is man-up time. The Cardinals face a six-game stretch that is polar-opposite to the cream puff quality in November-December.

At Yum Center UofL fans get their money’s worth: Memphis, SMU and Houston. UConn and South Florida on the road, and Cards close the month at home with Cincinnati.


Kentucky sports person of the year. A week ago Louisville’s Secret Santa seemed a natural. St. Nick had given a $13,000 gift for kids’ Christmas in Louisville’s west end anonymously.

This week, A more deserving sports person of the year in Kentucky is Emma Talley.

Talley was SEC freshman golfer of the year at University of Alabama and second team All-American in 2012. The Princeton and Caldwell County native won the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur championship.

Beyond the wins and accolades, here’s the best part: After winning the U.S. Women’s tourney, Talley told reporters, while she hopes to play professionally one day, “I can’t wait to get back to school. Right now I just love college. Roll Tide!”

Postscript. A reader, Dennis Stephens of Princeton, took note that three of my five ‘nominees’ for sports person for 2013 were Teddy Bridgewater, Rick Pitino and Secret Santa in Jefferson County, and wondered if “Sports In Kentucky had become Sports for Greater Louisville (area).”

And so it goes.