Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Louisville and uh, fidelity

What was missing from Tom Jurich’s new-contract-for-Charlie Strong announcement the other day? A brass band, cheerleaders, a Shriner mini-bike parade and a few real-world questions about the price tag on fidelity.

And, someone to say: “Hey Tom, while you’re here to toot about more money for a ball coach while your pizza franchise pal can’t pay his employees health insurance, would you explain what the hell one human-being does with $3.4 million, two complimentary automobiles and paid membership to two country clubs, after the first year?

√ Beyond Jurich’s braggadocio and what he considers important, does anybody care if Louisville’s coach pay grade is up there with gated community citizen Nick Saban?

√ And, to the working slob who pays two dollars for a newspaper, what newsworthiness is there in a netherworld pay hike for a college ball coach?

Go Cards!

Already in the books – UofL had a splendid football season capped with a good whuppin’ on Florida in the Sugar Bowl. We can all agree the Cardinals dealt the SEC titan and its arm-flappers a much deserved humiliation.

For that, UofL’s director of athletics emptied his quiver of accolades on Strong leaving Louisville media staggered in breathless wonderment: Does this ball coach really walk from here to New Albany without a bridge?

Then came Jurich’s fine print (in Large Numbers). Forget that buy-out provisions and loyalty clauses are contradictions in terms.

Strong signed a new security-blanket contract stretching to end of the decade. $3.7 million a year with sundry incentive bonuses, the least mentioned, but most significant, academic progress of student-athletes.

But IF he leaves UofL this calendar year Strong pays the school $5 million. Jurich made it sound like a game-breaker incentive-to-stay, but in fact the university (Florida for instance) or NFL franchise wanting to hire Strong, it wouldn’t cost him a dime. His new boss would pay the $5 million out of a chump change account.

For the record, if Strong leaves in 2014, the university would get $4.375 million. The buy-out amount goes down each year until 2020 when the ball coach would pay ‘only’ $625,000 to leave.

Isn’t this a wonderful tribute to fidelity of trust?

On the other hand, if Strong is still in Louisville in 2016, Jurich pays him $1 million bonus for loyalty, and $200,000 each year after through 2018.

Isn’t this a wonderful tribute to fidelity of loyalty?

The Jurich-ball coach moneyball episode is another example of who and what college presidents and their boards of trustees have sold out to, allowed the tail wag the dog while they count receipts. The erosion doesn’t stop here either.

It continues in the following form: Ex-coaches, players and television talking heads who “have theirs,” are now casting focus onto the NCAA and its ever growing largess and howling for justice for athletes.

The yowl goes like this: “HEY! It’s time to pay the players!”

America. I love this place!


The good news (for basketball fans) is a new series matching Kentucky and North Carolina.

The Wildcats will play in Chapel Hill next season, with the Tar Heels coming to Rupp Arena in 2014. UK has won three of the last four between the two iconic programs. North Carolina holds a lead all-time, 22-13.

The Kentucky-Carolina resumption brings to mind the reality that many/most Kentucky fans want to see a return of a Wildcats-Hoosiers series.


For the Fall 2012 semester, 46 University of Kentucky student-athletes were named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Honor Roll is based on grades from the 2012 Spring, Summer and Fall terms. A student-athlete must have a 3.0 or better grade point average for the preceding academic year, or a cumulative 3.0 GPA.

Breakdown: Football, 20; soccer 20; and volleyball, six.

UK’s programs that pay a cumulative $10 million a year-plus perks, men’s and women’s basketball coaches, zero.

Comment: No pretense from John Calipari. He refers to his student-athletes as players.


Miami ripped then top ranked Duke last week 90-63 in Miami.

“Not much to say after that. They were men, we were boys,” coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “The score and the performance reflected that disparity. They were terrific. We did not hold up our end of the bargain tonight.”

Straight talk from the same ball coach who, on March 28, 1992, sought out Cawood Ledford and asked for air time to congratulate Big Blue Nation and the Kentucky Wildcats after Christian Laettner’s game winning shot.

Footnote: Laettner appeared on a television show recently and explained about stepping on Aminu Timberlake’s chest in the Duke-UK game in Philadelphia.

“I wish I’d stepped down harder than that,” he said. Laettner declared his was retaliation for an earlier incident. “I think it was (Deron) Feldhaus who pushed me out of bounds,” and no call was made.


Emmanuel Owootoah is the new rage in eastern Kentucky high school basketball. Listed at 5-10, Owootoah is a Canadian who became eligible this month. He schools at Cordia High School and plays for Rodrick Rhodes.

Owootoah is an Anthony Hickey (LSU) look-alike and play-alike.

A dandy prospect, Owootoah reminds me of O.J. Mayo. A kid ‘farmed’ to Cordia and groomed by handlers, in this case ex-Louisvillian Brandon Bender and AAU coach Ro Russell.

“I think the kid is ready for Duke, UCLA, North Carolina or Kentucky. He’s that good,” Bender said on a blog site.

Owootoah was projected as a prospect for 2014, but “Ro is deciding whether or not Emmanuel is mature enough for 2013 and we are starting to believe he’s ready now,” Bender added.


Reflecting the view of millions …

“I wonder if the (ESPN) executives can tell how much we hate Dick Vitale? Do their ratings reflect the negative effect he has on a basketball game? If I hear his voice, I change the channel or mute it. I’ll bet you do too.

“He never accomplished anything in basketball. All he’s done is scream supposedly glib and mindless platitudes for 40 years. He’s afraid of Bully Bob Knight too.

“Why does (ESPN) persist? It’s a mystery.”

And so it goes.