Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted January 15, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Kentucky has 15 games left in regular season, same for Western Kentucky. Louisville has 14. Mid-schedule impressions from here …

KENTUCKY. Halfway through their college careers, John Calipari’s one-and-doners, in light of preseason hype showered on them, have underachieved.

Game performance to match preseason No. 1 ranking? One. Defeated Louisville at Rupp Arena. Michigan State and North Carolina aside, Kentucky played a bevy of lightweights, endured something called Camp Cal and at mid-January UK is still learning to be a team.

Grade. C-minus.

LOUISVILLE. Preseason, the defending champion Cardinals were a top 5 ranked team. Starter Chane Behanan was sent packing and Cards lost at home to Memphis. Preseason hype as college player of the year status for Russ Smith has evaporated. Cards have underachieved.

Grade. C-minus.

WESTERN KENTUCKY. Ray Harper’s Hilltoppers are still searching for consistency. Good wins over Southern Miss and Murray State, but should have beaten Ole Miss and Georgia State.

Grade. C.


Kudos to Western Kentucky University’s equivalent of Alexander Hamilton handling money with vision and aplomb. Director of athletics Todd Stewart’s rent-a-coach strategy with Bob Petrino did these things:

√ WKU athletics collects $1.2 million from Petrino.

√ A home-and-home series. Since Louisville likely will not honor this clause, but will pay a buy-out fee. Stewart will stuff another five-figure check into Hilltopper coffers.

√ Coach-in-waiting Jeff Brohm comes at half the Petrino (inflated) price, $600,000 a year through 2019 with a $1.5 million buyout that decreases each year.

√ For continuity, the Brohm hiring keeps recruits on board until signing day, February 5.

Only snafu in all this: No Hilltopper fan mentioned that Petrino coached the Hilltoppers to an 8-4 record with Willie Taggart’s players.


Poster boy for what’s wrong with college football. Six-time job jumper, Petrino’s behaviors along the way demonstrate a career ruthlessly about himself. Track record says: former players, colleges and Tom Jurich are, at some point, expendable.

A Sports Illustrated headline: Louisville shows it has no shame in bringing back Bobby Petrino.

“Bobby Petrino is exactly the kind of mercenary (who) further blurs the line between college and professional sports,” SI’s Stewart Mandel wrote.

And this: “Tom Jurich, who, when Petrino was his head coach 2003-06, watched him openly flirt with multiple NFL and college suitors, then gave him a staggering 10-year contract extension to regain his commitment, only to have Petrino bolt for the Atlanta Falcons six months later.”

Jurich’s rush to re-hire Petrino last week without so much as forming a search committee, was more about demonstrating his own power and influence at UofL. Still to come, media tossing bouquets to the Ohio River Gambler.

Business is business.


For most of three years Carlton Bragg, a 6-9 junior at Villa Angela St. Joseph in Ohio, used media to lobby Kentucky for a scholarship offer. He got it last week. Bragg’s reaction was like a kid collecting offers like baseball cards. “Finally got that Kentucky offer,” he tweeted.


From a WKU fan, “I’m reading a good book on the Summer of 1927 by Bill Bryson. Was a big year – (Charles) Lindbergh; and Babe Ruth hit 60 (homer runs). … fascinating little factoid about the Yankees. At one time they were known as the Hilltoppers.”

Comment: 1903-1912, the New York baseball team played at Hilltop Park.

Newspaper editors wanted a shorter name for headlines. When the franchise moved to the Polo Grounds in 1913, it officially changed to New York Yankees.


Poor beleaguered Alex Rodriquez. Going to be a long road to redemption, but one day a sports media guy will get a tear in his eye then tender an adjective-rich piece to his editor extolling the virtue of a changed man, Bobby Petrino. Oops, I mean Alex Rodriquez.

And so it goes.