Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted November 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

A sparkle in college basketball shines through the money now-and-then.

How perfect that freshman-hyped Kentucky would stagger through a season opener and be saved at the end by Opie Taylor?

Jarrod Polson, kid from the heartland who Rupp Arena fans have urged to shooooooooooooooot! every time he showed up the last two seasons, showed up last week.

Polson was a surprise to Maryland’s coach Mark Turgeon, but maybe not so much for the old guard in Big Blue Nation. When the 6-2 junior from Nicholasville popped in a pair of killer free throws at 07.2 seconds to ice the win, it gave us pause to consider …

• A new UK jersey on the market this week. No. 5.

• Polson might have gotten a roster spot in the beginning to prop up John Calipari’s GPA chart, but the kid had smarts and ambition enough to make himself more than part of a clean-up crew. Kentucky traditionalists have embraced this story since Adolph Rupp invented the game.

• Home boy got a chance. Sometimes it’s all a Kentucky kid needs, opportunity. Polson’s play was straight out of a chapter about a pair of too-slow and talent-challenged hillbillys, John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus. Their hearts and will-to-win for Big Blue fans, was the size of Johnson and Mason counties combined.

• Polson’s performance brought to mind a Larry Pursiful (UK ‘62) remark: “Put a Kentucky uniform on a kid from this state and he’ll be 10 points better than he would somewhere else.”


Election results are in. It’s official. ESPN’s Jay Bilas–an electoral college unto himself–issued his analytical edict last week.

“… stop yearning for a basketball time that no longer exists. We’ve got a younger game now. It’s almost like we as a basketball community refuse to admit it,” Bilas said through the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The hoops world according to Bilas. That authority enough for you?

If Bilas is right, college hoops traditionalists across our Red State Commonwealth are going to have to join Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party, and “just get over it!”

The “younger game” means …

√ Time erosion. Bilas is three decades removed from his days (1982) playing for Mike Krzyzewski who touted student-athletics in its purest form. Now rich and a celebrity, Bilas has lost the meaning.

√ Principles erosion. That so few Americans care that college coaches go into an 18-year-old’s living room and money over learning (use of knife and fork in public … how to write a check), is reprehensible.

√ Values erosion. Bill Self is latest ball coach to sell out. Now an advocate for one-and-done Self wants to see college athletes “get paid.” The Kansas coach has not explained ‘salary figures’ particularly for field hockey players, or members of the women’s soccer and softball teams.

√ Compensation for student-athletes. Bilas, Self nor anyone else on college basketball’s supreme court that I know of, has mentioned the dollar value of a college scholarship. Today a one year scholarship is 18,000. Four years and a degree worth? You do the math and don’t stop at $72,000.

√ Fans. New or Traditionalist, you are a minor part of this cash cow. Television, shoe companies and promotionalists wag this dog. Fans supplement the sport by buying tickets, popcorn, parking spot, souvenirs and clothing, all including a licensing fee of course.

Bottom line. Fans who count themselves Traditionalists or new age, are not really relevant in Bilas’s “Younger Game” theorem. And, relevance of college administrators, particularly university presidents, is on the decline too.

How? On the idea of re-setting definition of student-athlete and age limits, the NCAA and college presidents remain silent. Why? Nobody wants to bother the golden goose.

According to Bilas Law, we need to “just get over it.”


Bobby Petrino as candidate for the Kentucky job is a bad idea. Period.

The ex-(pick a place) coach Petrino is being touted as “an offensive genius” ought to remind fans (and Mitch Barnhart), we’ve heard this song before. Hal Mumme with Tim Couch at quarterback would vault UK to SEC title contendership. Result? Four mediocre-to-poor seasons and NCAA probation.

Weighing Petrino’s coach skills against his full resume’ balanced against where Kentucky football is and wants to go, should eliminate him immediately.

Other candidates may be eliminating themselves.

• Mike Leach at Washington State had a player quit his team last week. The kid said the coach abuses his players. A charge also made against Leach at Texas Tech.

• Tommy Tuberville, coach at Texas Tech slapped a graduate assistant coach during a game last Saturday.

• David Cutcliffe has Duke bowl eligible at 6-4, but the Blue Devils have played a lightweight schedule and lost 3 of their last 4 games.

A candidate whose resume’ should earn him top consideration to replace Joker Phillips is Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech.

Dykes runs a spread offense, loves the passing game has L-Tech at 9-1 this season. And, he’s a 43-year-old family man with experience.


About one-and-done in college basketball, specifically at Kentucky, this is first in a series of views from fans.

From J.L. in Elizabethtown:

“I’ve been a die-hard UK basketball fan since the mid-1950s. The game has changed a lot over 60 years. The pros are playing for really big bucks and there seems to be a lot more professional teams. When many college grads can’t find a job, one-and-done-ers are becoming instant millionaires. Basketball is entertainment! They’re entertainers

“I want Kentucky to get the best players out there and I want those players to stay at UK for four years. Would love to see Anthony Davis around for three more years. (But) It would be a shame if he blew out a knee. Had Davis gone to Duke or UofL, he probably would still be a one-and-doner.”

And so it goes.