Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted May 22, 2013 at 2:27 pm

University of Kentucky athletics was number one! three times last week.

1. Mark Stoops’s football team will play the nation’s most difficult schedule this year. An internet site says five SEC teams will play top 10 toughest competition – Florida sixth, LSU fifth, Tennessee fourth, Arkansas second and Kentucky first.

2. Academics. Kentucky topped the SEC honor roll for the winter semester, according to a UK news release. The league’s sports honor roll included 49 UK student-athletes. Congratulations to 25 swimmers, and eight each from gymnastics and rifle teams.

Men’s basketball? Twany Beckham, Brian Long, Sam Malone, Jarrod Polson and Kyle Wiltjer.

Footnote: Statistics in this release were provided by the same source that issued (inflated) attendance figures at UK football games last season.

3. Basketball. Kentucky will open the season ranked No. 1 and the Wildcats are the 4-1 favorite to win the national championship, says Las Vegas Superbook.

Kansas is 10-1, Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Arizona and defending champion Louisville are 12-1, Ohio State and North Carolina at 15-1.

John Calipari’s reaction? Call a press conference to talk about his favorite subject, himself. Bad idea.

“I don’t mind a little pressure,” the 7-Million Dollar ball coach said. “I’ve had it my whole career. I’ve had the gun to my head for 20-something years. And you know what? I’m at my best when the gun is to my head.”

Peculiar choice of metaphors since gun is such a hot button word these days. Hard to get a visual of pressure on a 7-million dollar ball coach with gun to his head.

Maybe Calipari had a life-threat flashback to February 14, 1994. Then-Temple coach John Cheney charged after UMass coach Cal at a post game presser, shouting “I’ll kick your a–! I’ll kill you!” Cheney was dragged away.

But Calipari’s press conference in Lexington last week was only a warm-up. A day later, apparently smarting because of his one-and-done legacy, he was on radio in Louisville threatening the NCAA and proclaiming himself “the only guy out there saying, ‘We’ve gotta change this somehow. We’ve gotta encourage these kids to stay two years.’ But the NCAA’s gotta do some stuff. And if they don’t do it, we need to separate from them. I’m not afraid to say it.”

Excuse me, but Calipari selling “… encourage these kids to stay two years,” is like waiting for Rand Paul to endorse Hillary Clinton for 2016.

Calipari threatens: “if they don’t do it, we need to separate from them.”?

Let’s see if we have this straight.

√ Kentucky’s ball coach: Pressure? Gun to his head? No problem.

√ A day later, demands the NCAA do something to force college freshmen to stay in school and if they don’t it’s the NCAA’s fault.

√ And “if they don’t do it we need to separate from them.”

What’s at the root of this rant?

Probably this:

“Look, they (NCAA) have embarrassed me,” Cal told the radio audience. “I’ve done nothing, so they’re not going to come and show retribution to me and do stuff. I don’t really care.”

Elephant in the Room? Cal is still sore that UMass and Memphis were made to forfeit wins, take down Final Four banners because of misdeeds on his watch.

He knew nothing about Marcus Camby jewelry and what he was driving at UMass (Camby later confessed). Cal had no idea where Derrick Rose took his second or third college entrance exam to qualify for one-and-done at Memphis.

As ex-Commissioner of the internal Revenue Service Steven Miller is finding out, he who was in charge is responsible, and ignorance is no defense.

So, Calipari wants to “separate” from the NCAA and envisions super-conferences that would regulate themselves (keep the mega-millions), re-slice the pie minus NCAA cut and, Cal says, “create incentives for college players.

An unabashed, unapologetic NBA developmental league is Calipari’s goal, operating out of university facilities, using campus rah-rah as fan base, wave logos, embrace traditions, all done without academic blah-blah-blah. It’s the money, stupid!

Considering how busy Calipari’s mouth was last week, one wonders if he is indeed feeling pressure and not handling it well.

Still, Kentucky’s ball coach must be credited for masking a large ego kinda, sorta with noisy rhetoric, audacity and blame game rant, if not the good sense to – never call a press conference to talk about putting a gun to your head and rambling about your favorite subject. You.

What next? As rascal Jerry Tarkanian discovered once upon a time, NCAA administrators normally have long memories and don’t take kindly to being embarrassed by ball coaches.

And so it goes.