Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted May 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Peculiar, the times we live in.

The sports landscape is a screwball swirl of craziness, and the NBA is still going with a draft still a month away.

Observations …

√ NFL Draft. A month ago Johnny Manziel warned the Texans they’d be sorry if they didn’t draft him. A week ago ex-Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, (three national title rings in his pocket), and projected to be picked 16 to 35th, heard his name called at 164. Why the free fall? McCarron was said to be “too cocky.”

√ Manziel is headed to Cleveland where expectations are open like the shark face in Jaws. Too, was 15 years ago Browns fans put weight-of-the-world on another rookie QB. Tim Couch. We know how that worked out.

√ Proof it’s a slow time in college hoops, Bleacher Report ranked 14 “best college coaches without a job.” Three have ties to the Bluegrass State. No. 12 is Billy Gillispie, No. 4 is Darrin Horn and No. 2 Rick Stansbury.

COMMENT: Horn is better off at ESPN, Stansbury is retired, and Gillispie should shop for another kind of work.

√ UK basketball sophomore-to-be Dominic Hawkins is in China this week, as part of a cultural exchange. THIS is education. The Richmond native will never be the same.

√ Ex-Wildcat Jodie Meeks made the last walk last Sunday on a seven year journey to graduation at Kentucky. Degree in business and marketing.

√ Los Angels Clippers owner Don Sterling apologized and begged the NBA for forgiveness last weekend. His wife said he’s showing early signs of dementia.

√ NBA owners? By Tuesday it was clear their attempt to mollify the golden goose (players, merchandisers, NBC and sponsors), by banishing Sterling seemed noble at the time, but two weeks on looks to be another knee jerk decision that will enrich another parade of lawyers.

√ With hundreds of kidnapped teens still missing in Nigeria, and Vladimir Putin still in full bully mode in eastern Europe, and the North Korean leadership threatening to set off a nuke, President of the United States took time to telephone congratulations to a player chosen in the NFL draft.

√ Reader writes: “Remember how Tim Tebow was ridiculed for his Christian faith, especially in the NFL? Today, people are praising the St. Louis Rams and (draftee) Michael Sam basically because Sam is gay.”

√ On a Tuesday in April, Rick Pitino’s Louisville 2014-15 was projected to be Top 15 team. On a Tuesday in May UofL was listed among top eight overrated teams for next season.

√ Shipping company FedEx lost All-American Russ Smith’s framed University of Louisville game jersey?

Russdiculous had shipped his treasure home to Brooklyn, but, according to a Pro Sports Daily report, FedEx lost it, then found it damaged with broken glass, and tossed the package in the trash.

Smith tweeted FedEx, “There will be plenty of problems if I don’t have my jersey. Same stains, same rips, same odor, same everything. Can’t duplicate that.”

FedEx was already in run-around spin: “We are working closely with security to further investigate this matter. The damaged merchandise was marked to discard since, for safety precautions, our employees are trained not to open packages with broken glass.”

COMMENT: Looks as if Russ Smith will be getting a bonus before the NBA draft, from FedEx.

Meanwhile, UofL Board of Trustees member Jonathan Blue offered a $3,000 reward for the missing jersey.

√ Good news from a fellow who grew up poor in Mississippi. UK assistant basketball coach Kenny Payne has a two-year contract extension and new title associate head coach on his resume`. Payne will be due a million dollars, plus incentives.

COMMENT: Hunch here, Payne will be elsewhere by next spring. Head coach of his own program.

√ In Louisville, UofL announced another five percent tuition hike.

√ In Elizabethtown, citing these statistics – UK returns 59 percent of its scoring (1,773), 67 percent of its assists (300) and 54 percent of its rebounds (872), and adds four five-star freshmen, will have nine McDonald’s All-Americans, a Big Blue fan said, “Looks like the 40-0 talk before last season may have been just a year off.”

And, my favorite today …

√ As part of the pay-college-players push, Drexel University and the National Collegiate Players Association did a survey: How much would a collegiate player be worth on an open market?

Average for men’s college basketball player: $375,000.

Average college football player, $178,000.

If Andrew Wiggins had returned to Kansas, $1.6 million, Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, $547,000.

No survey results for dollar value was reported for, say Breanna Stewart at UConn or Shoni Schimmel at Louisville.

No numbers either for college baseball players, women’s softball, et cetera, et cetera.

NBC News report asked what salaried pay could mean for the college game:

“The bidding war for athletes would likely be in the millions,” a professor of sports management at Drexel said. “However, I think it all depends on whether or not a players’ association ends up representing the teams and players. The salaries could be effectively bargained to have some sort of minimum guaranteed salary for all.”

Imagine, minimum guaranteed salary for, say George Fant at Western Kentucky or Cory Walden at Eastern Kentucky.

America, I love this place.


Next date on the sports calendar, the NBA’s June draft, brought to mind a Bob Knight assessment.

“If I were involved with the NBA I wouldn’t want a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old kid, to bring into all the travel and all the problems that exist in the NBA.

“I’d want a much more mature kid. I would want a kid that maybe I’ve been watching on another team and now he’s 21, 22 years old instead of 18 or 19, and I might trade for that kid.

“On top of it all, the NBA does a tremendous, gigantic disservice to college basketball. It’s as though they’ve raped college basketball in my opinion.”


Forbes Magazine published a Career-Cast list of America’s best and worst jobs in 2014.

Best: Mathematician followed by college professor (tenured).

Worst: Lumberjack, newspaper reporter, enlisted military, taxi driver and chef. Last on this list: corrections officer.

And so it goes.