Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted October 2, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Seems Big Blue Nation’s Deciders already have Joker Phillips on the way to a buy-out and simply waiting until Big Blue Madness before sending Mitch Barnhart the memo.

With a bit of history in mind, we glance at the Deciders’ whisper short list so far.

• Bob Petrino? Nah. Kentucky has already had a Fran Curci story.

• Phil Fulmer? Nah. Too old and Kentucky already has a Bill Curry story.

At 62 and in business in Knoxville, why would a man with Big Orange heart strings want the Kentucky job? Besides, when hooligans were running the zoo at Tennessee, Fulmer made excuses and/or looked the other way.

• Willie Taggart? Nah. Kentucky already did its Sun Belt experiment. Hal Mumme.

Besides, Western’s coach might think the job in Lexington at best, a lateral move. If/when Taggart leaves WKU logic says his Harbaugh connection will take him back to the West Coast.

But stay tuned. Love the name Dabo Swinney, don’t you?


Kentucky’s second half whuppin’ from No. 6 South Carolina last week revealed a few bright spots worth noting.

• Kentucky’s 17-7 lead made Steve Spurrier wince. Squirm a bit too. The Wildcats played “we ain’t quittin’’’ football for 60 minutes. Good sign.

• Quality leader of men, Joker Phillips. He simply needs his troops to become juniors and seniors. And, of course, more SEC quality players.

With the state’s best prospects (at Trinity) going elsewhere (again) – James Quick to Louisville and Jason Hatcher to Southern Cal – UK’s most pressing need is not a new head coach, but a replacement for recruiter Tee Martin.

• That UK’s porous defense surrendered another 200 yards rushing last week shows again the need for new approaches from a new defensive coordinator.

• Jalen Whitlow. A year out of high school, the quarterback acquitted himself reasonably well avoiding five future NFLers. The kid made glaring mistakes, but his teammates rallied to him and Whitlow had poise and nerve enough to run for a touchdown.

Too, he preserved Patrick Towles’ red shirt.

• Break out. Mississippi State at Commonwealth Stadium this week could begin a break out for Kentucky. Five, even six games of the remaining seven, are winnable.

Stop laughing.

Georgia looks to be out of reach, playing at Missouri (3-2) could be a toss-up by October 27.


October has come again and with it a familiar sunny code of numbers.

While Louisville’s football Cardinals climb the polls, Western Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky head into pivotal league dates on their schedules this weekend, the University of Kentucky released its men’s basketball schedule with dates, times and teevee schedule. Every Wildcat game is slated for the tube.

(Too) many fans have already turned to the page to the code that makes Blue Nation hearts sing – 5-star.

Not 4-star and never 3-star, 5-star basketball prospects are in the wings.

5-STAR. James Young, a 6-6 wing forward in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He visited John Calipari’s kingdom last weekend. Hailed as best small forward in the land, Young averaged 25.1 points and 10.5 rebounds last season. Before visiting Lexington his list said: Kansas, Ohio State, Missouri and Kentucky.

5-STAR. Julius Randle, a 6-9, 225-pounder from Plano, Texas, is a Patrick Patterson body type. He visited Lexington mid-September and has cut his list to Baylor, North Carolina and Kentucky.

5-STAR. Andrew and Aaron Harrison, point and shooting guard brothers at Richmond, Texas. Destined to be a combo coup for Maryland or Kentucky.

To the surprise of nobody, several more 5-star stars have Calipari U. on their lists. Most are waiting to see who signs where before instructing the high school principal to schedule a press conference.


Kentucky won the NCAA championship, but Kansas’s Bill Self and Missouri’s Frank Haith won coach of the year awards.

Last week, John Calipari won something. The Nell and John Wooden Coach of the Year Leadership award.

Cal’s reaction was perfect echo to my own.

“Are you kidding me?” he said.

“… just being thrown in a situation where Coach Wooden’s daughter gives me an award, are you kidding me? I don’t even care what the award is. That for me is really special.”

What would be the Wizard of Westwood reaction to his daughter’s choice?

We get an idea from a passage in author Brian D. Biro’s book Beyond Success.

“John Wooden expected his players to be students first and foremost, and communicated that expectation constantly in both words and actions. As a result, the graduation rate for his players was well over 95 percent–far better than the student population as a whole.”

What would Wooden think of Calipari’s graduation rate?

Are you kidding me?


Field of Dreams, a 193-acre farm in Iowa where Kevin Costner’s motion picture was made, has been sold. The new owners announced with some fanfare they intend to make the farm into a dozen baseball and softball fields, and build an indoor center for youth teams.

Sounds terrible. The iconic remark “Build it and they will come,” doesn’t seem quite so magical anymore does it?

And so it goes.