Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted February 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm

If a break-the-mold sports story turns your head the way it does mine, meet Donovan McCoy.

Name like that, has to be a quarterback, right? McCoy passed for almost 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in his only year as a starter at Fort Thomas Highlands. He ran for 22 more and the Bluebirds finished another perfect season with Class 4-A title trophy.

Donovan McCoy, naturally, was chosen all-state, first team, probably homecoming king, most likely to succeed and a host of other accolades.

Here comes the best part.

McCoy told a reporter a few weeks ago he does not intend to play college football.

Stop the presses. Glam of being an all-state field general tossed aside?

“I’ve gotten what I need out of football,” McCoy said. “Played for 12 years and I’m 18 years old and my body has been to hell and back.”

Got me thinking about the latest NFL buzz about concussions; and all the old boys who gather in Canton, Ohio for Hall of Fame festivities each year … many come into rooms limping.

McCoy. Here comes the next best part.

All those passing yards and 54 touchdowns? Very nice for scrapbook review on a rainy day. But numbers that will take McCoy up the road are 4.4 grade point average and 34 on his ACT.

McCoy intends to major in bio-engineering. Maybe at Louisville, maybe at Vanderbilt. I vote for the latter. Either way, odds are good he won’t be limping.

Finally, a little forecast. If the 18-year-olds familiar to us in sports today stay healthy, I predict that a dozen years from now, when one-and-done basketball players have reached the bad knees stage of life (average NBA career is five years), and headed to a sunny poolside to relax and count their dollars, if they still have any, I’m betting Donovan McCoy will be a scientist somewhere involved in research and preparing a paper for submission for a Nobel Prize.


Beyond the three, four and five-star hype ‘experts’ assigned college football’s newcomers, how well in real world terms did the Commonwealth’s D-Is, Louisville, Kentucky and Western Kentucky do this signing season?

Seems to me …

• At UofL, because the veteran Cardinals will be a Top 5 ranked team in the fall magazines, coach Charlie Strong not only recruited for specific needs, higher selectivity and with the luxury of putting red shirts on all or most of 17 signees.

• At Western, where Willie Taggart left Bob Petrino with a cupboard not bare, the new coach applied a saturation strategy. Signed the maximum 25, added to eight earlier signees then will sift out the best, red shirt the rest or let them transfer.

• At Kentucky, by any reasonable measure coach Mark Stoops exceeded best expectations by 40 yards. Somehow, the new staff landed half-dozen impact players – two JUCOs, two of the Commonwealth’s best (Jason Hatcher and Ryan Timmons), along with two top prospects each in Ohio (Mark McWilson and Jaleel Hytchye) and Florida (JoJo Kemp and Alvonte Bell).

Context? With Vanderbilt surging, Kentucky is officially the SEC’s bottom feeder and yet rookie head coach Stoops used his honeymoon time and coach-speak masterfully.

Most significant recruit? Luring Louisvillian Jason Hatcher to Kentucky after a commit to Southern Cal, is large. Establishing a new foothold in Jefferson County at its foremost football factory, Trinity High School is a good win on Charlie Strong’s eastern flank.

WHO’S NO. 1?

Mid-February, who’s number one in college hoops?

Better question: Who isn’t? That list would include, well, almost everybody. Consider the Big Dog nose-dives lately: Syracuse, Kansas and Michigan; Duke was shelled at Miami and North Carolina has disappeared.

Louisville? Go figure. The Cards flew to the top limb in January, then came back to earth like a wrecking ball with Rick Pitino red-faced and barking all the way.

Never mind. The next three weeks could be more fun than watching the movie Hoosiers for the 3,524th time.

By the way, UofL’s 65-minute marathon at South Bend last week had two notables.

1. Five overtimes is a record.

2. And, instead of spewing the usual nothings for 65 minutes, for those who had long since put down the mute button, rumor was Dick Vitale actually shut up for 30 seconds straight.


Defending national champion Kentucky never managed to acquire a nickname, a tradition for fan favorites at Flagship U. Apparently fans (and media) are struggling again this season to find one for John Calipari’s current assemblage.

Why the struggle? Because something’s missing. An element so vital it has sustained UK basketball’s magical effect more than seven decades. UK football signee Jacob Hyde gave it fresh voice last week.

“For me to go to Kentucky and play, it’s a childhood dream,” Hyde told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Kentucky is where I always wanted to play…”

Over the last two seasons, Jarrod Polson excepted, anybody read or heard a similar genuflect from a UK player to the nation’s winningest program? Willie Cauley-Stein maybe.

We all know Kentuckians and Big Blue Nation love attending games and winning for the pride and prestige it brings our state again and again. We also know today’s players have little idea what Jacob Hyde was talking about. Today’s UK players are more focused on hurry to get someplace else.

So, the struggle for a nickname. As a UK fan told me last month, “Heck, they’re not here long enough for us to learn their names, let alone a nickname.”

And so it goes.