Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted August 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm


Kentuckian Dermontti Dawson, and Western Kentucky University graduate Claire Donahue, arrived at signature moments last Saturday.

Dawson took his place in the NFL Hall of Fame at Canton next to warriors who dazzled in their day, even if they limp a little these days.

Ever popular with his fellows at Lexington and Bryan Station High on to a dozen years in Pittsburgh, Dawson is the newest Man of Canton to have a bronzed likeness parked among the legends we recognize by a mere word or two – Mean Joe and Franco, Butkus and Blanda, Johnny U., Broadway Joe and Night Train, and the list goes on.

Congratulations to Double-D.

For Donahue we shift to London and her butterfly leg in qualifying that helped Team USA set a new world record and win gold in the 400-meter medley relay Saturday. A moment for the ages.

Donahue’s gold medal has become all the buzz at Huck Finn’s Catfish place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee where her father Chris told a Knoxville television reporter, “It’s hard to describe. I don’t know if there are really words for it.”

Cherry on top? Donahue’s gold medal came on her mother’s birthday.

And, Huck Finn owner Karen Moore reported the Claire Donahue Special: Fish and Chips, “is selling very well. I’m hoping if I get some time pretty soon I can put it on the actual menu.”

Best of the best? Tribute, dad-to-daughter, “You’ve done good,” he said. “Great attitude, great heart in the whole process, so proud to be your dad, so proud you represented this country so well.”

Donahue’s future? She has already set sights on the Rio de Janeiro Olympiad in 2016.

Grand weekend for Kentucky. Dawson’s Hall of Fame induction brings to mind Hall of Fame favorites of mine – Adrian Smith (Farmington), 2010, Mary T. Meagher (Louisville), 2010, PeeWee Reese (Ekron), 1984, and Frank Ramsey (Dixon) in 1982.


Anemic ticket sales, two touchdown underdog for its season opener at Lousiville, and predictions Kentucky will win zero SEC games, the Wildcats’ ball coach could be in for a Nightmare Autumn.

I hope not. Good people deserve every chance. Before the on-field firing starts, and before Fellowship of the Miserable takes the safe route via radio to air its frustration, here’s one vote of support for Joker Phillips.

Whatever ticket sales numbers, the University of Kentucky ought to honor its contract and more. Before the Governor’s Cup the school president should issue a very public vote of confidence for his ball coach.

One vote for support for Phillips can count on to come? Louisville coach Charlie Strong.

Why should fans rally round Phillips? The integrity and texture of what he says.

1. Reporter-coach exchange at last week’s media session.

Question: “You talk about the quality of kid you’re bringing in, how do you anticipate that carrying over to the playing field in terms of success?

Phillips: “It matters, trust me, it matters the type of kids you have. Can you trust them? Can we trust you? … Are they committed? Are they committed to doing the things right all the time? … If I’m a corner(back) and I’m supposed to line up 12 yards inside the receiver, I’ve got to line up 12 yards, not seven yards, 12 yards! … We’re bringing kids into this program (who) are willing to do things right all the time.”

2. Take away Twitter. Phillips had no compunction nor hesitation in banning players from using the distracting and pesky nuisance through August 15. Here is a lesson in self-discipline. Players could ‘sneak’ and text … or not.

3. This team reminds Phillips of the 2006 Wildcats.

“(Among) our top 44 players are 26 sophomores and red-shirt freshmen,” … not counting incoming freshmen.

“In ‘06, there were 24, not counting Braxton Kelly and those guys (who) stepped into starting roles. We feel like a couple of these linebackers could possibly do (that) and add even more depth. It also reminds me of some senior and junior leaders, Collins Ukwu, Larry Warford, Taylor Wyndham, Matt Smith, Morgan Newton, Mikie Benton, Tay Neloms, Mister Cobble, and Donte Rumph.”

“Leadership at the top and the talent at the bottom reminds me of the ‘06 team.”

History tells us: In summer 2006 fans were howling for Rich Brooks’ head. Fire him! Brooks’ first three UK teams finished 4-8, 2-9 and 3-8 including three losses to UofL.

Kentucky opened 2006 at Louisville, was hammered 59-28, then went on to an 8-5 record capped by a 28-20 win over Clemson in the Music City Bowl.

Brooks had gone from hot seat to hot item doing television commercials, back-slapping with alums, recruiting was up, and snarky “UK is a basketball school” went mute. Four years from his hiring, Brooks was declared The Man, a genius, a savior and second coming of Bear Bryant.

Next? Brooks grinned, turned to Joker Phillips and said, “Your turn.”


Summer-time for college basketball is mostly media ga-ga for high school prospects; latest gossip, then Twitter each time Jabari Parker’s father opens his mouth and, well, this: Bleacher Report – Dirtiest Players in College Basketball.

• DeAndre Kane at Marshall was last season’s leader in college hoops technical fouls with seven.

• Cincinnati’s Cheikh Mbodj was suspended six games after videotape from the Bearcats-Xavier brawl showed him trying to stomp on Kenny Frease.

“The punch in the face from (Yancy) Gates was bad enough, but Mbodj’s actions after (Frease) was on the (floor) were even more cowardly. He should have been suspended for much longer than he was,” the Report said.

Dirtiest college players at number five is evidence the women’s game is growing more physical as well. Baylor star Brittany Griner scuffled with Texas Tech’s Jordan Barncastle in a game last season then punched Barncastle in the face.


After badminton teams from China, Indonesia and South Korea were sent home for “trying to lose” at the London Olympics, IOC Vice President and former head of the international badminton federation, Craig Reedie offered a comic grasp for the obvious.

“Sport is competitive,” he said. “If you lose the competitive element, then the whole thing becomes a nonsense.”

And so it goes.