Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted October 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Joker Phillips takes his team on the road this week. A good thing.

At the turn, his Wildcats are oh-fer against America’s third, fourth, 18th and 19th ranked teams, and Western Kentucky received votes also, in the coaches poll.

The turn for UK football amounts to more than half-a-season. For many in Big Blue Nation it’s turn-the-page to basketball.

Last week ESPN-TV announced a full access feature into John Calipari’s program. A day later the country’s highest rated high school guards said they will play at Kentucky. This Friday evening, Big Blue Madness.

Yogi Berra would tell UK’s beleaguered football coach, “Got late early, didn’t it?”

That UK foes are 29-2 halfway through the season, is telling, but of little consolation.

There is a bright side. Sparkles.

• Patrick Towles. Five plays into his SEC debut, the freshman quarterback was a man on fire, ready to run the next play. A Commonwealth Stadium crowd starved for something to cheer about watched the kid march his team the way the Deuce used to do. With confidence and touch of swagger.

Towles fifth pass, all completions, was a strike to LaRod King for a touchdown.

Two snaps on, Towles was on the ground, his ankle crunched under 6-5, 255-pound Denico Autry. He was done for the day, but the kid will be back. Sturdy and determined, the 6-feet-5, 230-plus pounder has Commander written on his face. Towles can be special.

• Kentucky football will be back too.

Reasonable fans still watching the Wildcats, have seen an uncommon number of skilled underclassmen who lack only experience. And, they play hard for The Man.

Despite noisy ‘get-rid-of-the-coach-types,’ count me among those who hope Joker Phillips’ boss has backbone enough to stand by his man, honor UK’s end of a five year contract, and bring Phillips back for Year 4.

Meanwhile, for disheartened Big Blue Nation fans, these signs of better days are coming.

1. Gear up your computer and review Kentucky Football Depth Chart for 2012. Uunusual number of underclassmen already playing this season.

2. Fellow SEC bottom-feeder Vanderbilt continues to make turn-around progress. The Commodores beat Missouri in Columbia last week and have a shot at No. 4 Florida in Nashville this week.

3. A D-I football program that, three seasons ago, owned college football’s longest losing streak, is in full renaissance. Receiving votes this week in the college coaches poll, Western Kentucky.


For our state’s prime D-I football teams, opportunity knocks this week.

√ Western Kentucky (4-1) goes on the road against Sun Belt rival Troy (3-2) Thursday night (ESPNU).

A Western win would extend the Tops streak to five and set the stage for what could be a play-all-night homecoming date with Louisiana-Monroe October 20. The Warhawks (3-2) average 39.6 points a game.

√ Louisville’s visit to Pittsburgh this week can be the first step toward the unbeaten and 18th ranked Cardinals’ full claim for consideration to a major bowl game. First step because a UofL win would set the table for three-game home stand – South Florida, Cincinnati and Temple.

Only a whim, but wouldn’t a UofL-Notre Dame bowl game have a nice ring to it?

Opportunity Week.


The really good news for UK fans came last week when Aaron and Andrew Harrison twins said ‘yes’ to Kentucky and “no thanks” to Maryland.

Unable to disguise his bias, a disappointed Baltimore Sun writer said: “Texas twins … picked the defending national champions over a program looking to recapture its past glory. They also picked a coach who has reputation for turning one-and-done college players into NBA lottery picks.

“Though the Harrisons said simultaneously that ‘for the next four years we will be attending the University of Kentucky,’ the 6-foot-5 guards are expected to stay only a year in college before going to the NBA.”

If the Sun reporter is right, not to worry, the scholarships Aaron and Andrew Harrison sign with UK will be available again in nine months.


A press release from University of Kentucky athletics last week said ESPN is cleared for an All-Access series into men’s basketball. Hand-held cameras will take fans behind the scenes.

Good idea? For whom?

Teevee access to players at practice and in the locker room however its edited, is a breach of athletes’ privacy and brazen exploitation by a coach with no qualms about making Kentucky basketball into the Kardashians.

History tells us, a major part of this program’s popularity is tied to its mystique and limited access. (i.e. hottest ticket in town).

UK basketball doesn’t need this.

If familiarity breeds contempt, and it does, then John Calipari has been allowed to make UK basketball into a boat with a glass bottom for no good reason. Why do it? So, Calipari can promote his favorite subject with ESPN. Himself.

ESPN All-Access … bad idea.


Ohio State third-string quarterback Cardale Jones issued a twitter last week on his feelings about attending classes. OSU athletic officials were stunned and red-faced.

“Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play football?” Jones tweeted. “We ain’t come to play school. Classes are pointless.”

By late Friday night OSU had gone to damage control. The tweet and Jones’ account were shut down.

Considering Jones’ grammar, his best college option would be one-and-done.


An item here last week said the farm in Iowa where Field Of Dreams was filmed, has been sold. The report brought this eloquent reader response.

“Traveled to Dysersburg, Iowa, visit(ed) Field of Dreams,” wrote Asa Rouse of Walton, Kentucky. “I ran the bases, faked some swings at an imaginary ball and, most adventuresome of all, I walked into the iconic corn field as (wife) Libby watched and applauded from the field’s little bleachers.”

And so it goes.