Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted January 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Price of bullion is up, way up. The gold standard, defined by Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart last year, has been re-set and belongs in Jefferson County.

As we head into mid-winter, University of Louisville athletics is on a hot streak that dazzles the mind of even the most ardent fan in Big Blue Nation.

√ UofL has a Sugar Bowl trophy and $17 million dollars (before the Big East takes it’s cut).

√ Rick Pitino’s team survived arch-rival Kentucky, is ranked in the top five, and hasn’t lost a game since before Thanksgiving.

√ Kentucky Mr. Football, James Quick is staying home. The MVP from Armed Forces Bowl, will sign with Louisville next month instead of Ohio State.

√ UofL’s women’s basketball team was 12-3 last week and ranked No. 11.

From the Add On Dept.

√ A few streets over from Belknap campus, Scotty Davenport’s Bellarmine team is unbeaten in a dozen games.

√ Charlie Strong has a commit already from Trinity High School’s next quarterback.

√ And, as geographically illogical as it is, Louisville will be a Tobacco Road program next year.

√ Oh, and Rick Pitino’s horse Avare won $75 grand at Santa Anita last week.

Gold Standard stuff.

Among the revenue-makers …

√ Charlie Strong, aside from a little Tennessee waltz, walked the walk and his Cardinals put a gloss on an 11-2 season by thrashing a bunch of guys and handful of hooligans dressed up as Florida Gators.

√ Next? Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is already a Heisman Trophy candidate. Treat to come: Watch progress and media gush over hopeful Bridgewater and Heisman holder Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.

√ Pitino’s team, led by a senior and five juniors, is on track to a No. 1 seed in March, but also produced a record 3.41 team GPA last semester.

Football, a bowl win, basketball, rankings, GPA and recruiting.

We know where the gold standard is in our Commonwealth and where it isn’t.


While University of Kentucky fans have paid more for less (football) and (NBA D-League) home basketball games, maybe Jefferson County gold standard, instead of being resented, should be a model worth study and imitation.

√ Mark Stoops and Neal Brown have honeymoon time and opportunity to re-cast football, get up to Louisville’s level. Remember, the team UofL embarrassed in New Orleans is same Florida that collared Kentucky 38-0 in September.

Charlie Strong needed three years to meld credibility-to-recruit, think big time, then win big time, and carry momentum into next season. Why can’t Kentucky do the same?

√ Basketball. UK recruiting success IS the gold standard in college hoops. Yet, since UK fans expect national titles, their teams have only one in four years. Will 25 percent satisfy the faithful?

Only one player, as John Calipari calls them, has been at UK long enough to put the word experience on his resume’. Thanks to Maysville, and Billy Clyde Gillispie, Darius Miller stands alone as role model deluxe. Miller has the big triple – NCAA title ring, college degree and regular NBA paychecks.

Bottom line? Kentucky needs new emphasis on name on front of jersey and less about Cal’s crow, “At Kentucky it’s all about the players.”

Kentucky basketball has been about more than players, and more than an NBA farm team for more than seven decades. The program’s real owners are millions of fans of all ages who buy tickets, merchandise and, most of all, invest love and respect for student-athletes who want to play basketball where it is revered most, in Kentucky.


Here came a fresh breeze for UK basketball fans last weekend.

In front of ESPN cameras Dakari Johnson chose Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse. The 6-10, 250-pounder’s reasons made the big kid’s college pick special.

Why Kentucky? Johnson skipped the mercenary “Kentucky can get me to the league!” line, stayed politically correct – wants to win a national championship. And likes the idea of coaches pushing him, make him better.

Best part? “… I’m a good teammate,” he said. “I’m a good person on and off the floor.”

Then came the magic and that causes Kentucky fans to fall in love. The smile.


• Ohio State, Alabama and … Louisville will be in the top 5 out of the chute next season. And, four games into the season, three at home, the Cards should have completed its pre-league patsy-portion 4-0, (Ohio U., Eastern Kentucky, (at) Kentucky and Florida International).

• Grand Lesson. Florida’s humiliation in the Sugar Bowl is worth a video for every coach who gets his team bowl eligible and needs a pre-game speech. “Gentlemen, you’re about to see what happens when you go home for Christmas and only your silhouette comes back.”

• Sa-LUTE to Vanderbilt and Northwestern. The Commodores (9-4) and Wildcats (10-3) walloped North Carolina State and Mississippi State respectively in bowl games, to wrap up school record seasons.

Vandy defeated Northwestern in September and was set to host the Wildcats in Nashville in 2013, but cancelled because the ‘Dores had five non-SEC games scheduled. Vandy also cancelled a game at Ohio State next season.

And so it goes.