Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted August 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Kentucky’s all-star basketball team is in the sunny Bahamas this week letting Mark Stoops and his football team some alone time.

From Planet Hoops Caribbean, a few observations.

√ For this team, break out the uptown adjectives. The platinum ones. To avoid overuse, bring a few dozen.

√ Assemblage of this talent and depth is, well, a professional team, In more than four decades watching college hoops, I’ve seen nothing like this one.

√ Kentucky being allowed to play half dozen games two months ahead of all the others, seems as fair as Secretariat having a five furlong head start on Affirmed, Sea Biscuit and Seattle Slew and the rest.

√ Platoon. John Calipari’s five-in, five-out at a time approach revealed exquisite options and combinations enough for a chess match. All this and Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles were spectators on the DL.

√ If center Dakari Johnson becomes an All-American, the reason will be Karl Anthony Towns. Or, the other way round.

√ Tyler Ulis. Can become most popular and productive play maker at Kentucky in 35 years (Kyle Macy (1978-80) with an option on ever at UK.

√ This team could finally rid Planet Hoops and ESPN perpetuated myth, of (Michigan’s) Fab Five.

√ Ultra Wildcat loyalists, break out the calendar. Tickets for Big Blue Madness will be available Saturday, Sept. 20, 7 a.m. Eastern time at the Memorial Coliseum ticket windows. To add comfort to your camp-out, a row of portable potties will be available.

√ When Big Blue Madness comes October 17, Calipari will stick with gold standard-speak, but Big Blue Nation is bound to chant 40-and-oh.

√ Fans who love hating on Kentucky (and/or) Duke, “… may as well start now and avoid the Christmas rush.”

Postscript …

√ Attention-starved internet sports columnists must be nimble and clever in pursuit of reputation. How about predicting which premier college teams will suffer their first loss in 2014-15?

From Bleacher Report:

• Louisville’s first loss will be to Minnesota November 14 in Puerto Rico.

Writer’s logic: Minnesota returns four starters and adds JUCO transfer Carlos Morris. Louisville loses three starters, including do-it-all Russ Smith.

• Kentucky’s first loss will be at Yum Center, December 27 to Louisville.

Logic: “Kentucky might be a bit rundown and/or overconfident after winning games against Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and UCLA.”

COMMENT: Run down? With a 12 deep all star roster?

Bulletin board stuff. Delicious.


For the 351 NCAA’s Division I schools not affiliated with the Power Five conferences, it tolls for thee.

By a 16-2 vote last week, the NCAA’s board of directors, bowed to Big Money. Come January, the Power Five’s mission statement to NCAA’s other schools: Lemme $how You the Money! And we’re keeping it all!

A New York Times report projects broadcast contracts alone, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC, plus Notre Dame, will generate $31 billion.

Power Five leagues will write their own rules, including pay for players. Still to come: In light of coach paranoia, rules on how to police themselves? Won’t that be interesting.

Meanwhile …

√ A proposed cost-of-going-to-college stipend for players will have a ceiling of $5,000?


A few questions:

1. Johnny Jumpshot sitting at the end of the bench will have same walking-around-money as Larry Lottery Pick? Really?

2. Pressures to win. Who will monitor say, Nick Saban and John Calipari, how they leverage stipend money to control athletes? Coaches have used ‘your scholarship’ as trump card for decades.

3. Problem. With the Power Five leagues having strong-armed the NCAA and its rules aside, and since a Big 12 director of athletics said last week the cost to be a college student stipend will be available to all student-athletes, how long until Power Five conference officials find legal ways to jettison all but programs not named football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball?

4. Good news? While Big Boy $chools $hop for players, legitimate student-athletes are more likely to surface at a college or university near you.


A California district judge ruled in favor of Ed O’Bannon last week.

His suit challenged NCAA rules that prohibit athletes earning money from use of their names and images in video games and television broadcasts. He wins.

Officials at UK, UofL and others may hold their collective breath that the O’Bannon ruling is not retroactive.

Dating to collector cards featuring images of college players in Kentucky sponsored by Standard Oil Company for instance, date to the 1950s. Last 60 years, UK, UofL and associated businesses have cashed in for millions of dollars on everything from cards to photos in game programs, on calendars and bill boards.

And so it goes.