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Bob Watkins Sports in Kentucky

Joker is close to ‘hot seat’



From Menifee County in the east to Marshall County in the west, high tide in Kentucky is autumn. Our pristine place in time is a weave of yellows and reds and vistas painted in hews and silhouettes so golden they take our breath and send storytellers to their keys and fiddlers to their bows.

At the grassroots, Louisville Trinity, Fort Thomas Highlands and other football teams embark on their real season this week — the high school playoffs.

College? There is a flicker or two among the embers about to give way to hoops.

Flicker 1. Revival at Bowling Green is a beauty. A few autumns ago, Western Kentucky owned the nation’s longest losing streak. Today, the Hilltoppers own a fourgame win streak, each packed with fourth quarter lightning and overtime thrills enough to set stage for standing room only this week against Florida International.

In Louisville, Charlie Strong has a contract extension and the Cardinals have back-to-back wins heading to nut-cracking-time at Morgantown, West Virginia.

Low place on the totem? Football in Lexington. The Wildcats’ season faded to black-onblue last week (pun intended). Losing its third of five home games with two left at Commonwealth does not feed the bulldog (no pun intended).

The Wildcats’ black duds against Mississippi State were handsome enough, even menacing opposite the Bulldogs’ emphasis on-fat white uni(s). But UK’s performance was not handsome. Big and burly State rolled over the Wildcats like M1A1s on their way to Baghdad. Or, in this case, bowl eligibility.

This week Coach Joker Phillips is thisclose to labels “beleaguered” andhot seat.” He will also take a dismal record to the recruiting trail.

Closer still, UK’s football team faces after-thought status as the calendar turns to exhibition basketball against Transylvania and Morehouse. Realities for Joker’s team eight games along?

1. Four left. Three are winnable. Georgia isn’t.

2. Eureka, a quarterback has been found. Morgan Newton’s strained ankle forced Phillips to give fans rookie Maxwell Smith. With Tim Couch aplomb, the kid stepped in cold, heated up quick and moved critics to bash the coach with echoes of Turn-the- Deuce-Lose. Smith stood calm in the pocket, threw catchable passes, took his licks, made good decisions and completed 26 of 33 passes, and got a clear vote of confidence from his coach Randy Sanders.

3. Voila, a blue collar receiver. Matt Roark played as if the next snap was on his mind instead of trash talk or a pro contract. He caught 13 passes for 116 yards.

4. Last reality. Joker Phillips and his staff had better find and sign SEC caliber athletes and plenty of them and soon.

Another autumn will come and new M1A1s are coming to the SEC down the road. Texas A&M and Missouri (probable).

News & Views

NEWS. Darius Miller is a better basketball player this year because of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Coach John Calipari said last week.

VIEW. In fact, Miller is a better player because he’s played college basketball three seasons against best of the best in the Southeastern Conference, across America and internationally. Kidd-Gilchrist is merely the latest challenge.

NEWS. Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey passed the 1,000 yards rushing mark last week making it back-to-back labor and business, such as a “right to work” law, which bans union contracts that require employees to pay union dues or fees for collective bargaining. Businesses are attracted to states with right-to-work laws because they weaken unions. Rather than a state law, Williams would allow counties to enact local right-to-work laws by referendum, something done in no other state.

Likewise, he would also allow counties to vote against being covered by the “prevailing wage” law, which sets generally unionscale wages for public construction projects costing $250,000 or more.

Beshear took office in December 2007, about the time the economic downturn began. In 2008, he got the legislature to expand the state’s tax-incentive programs for creation of jobs. From 2008 to 2011 state press releases named 120 companies that promised to create jobs with the incentives. CN2’s news service, Pure Politics, surveyed them and got a response from 87. The initial estimation of those to be hired was 11,786, but the verified number of those hired was 3,691, less than a third of the jobs originally promised.

Beshear has assured taxpayers that state tax incentives will not be delivered to these companies unless they deliver jobs, but he continues to say that the incentives have created 19,500 jobs.

Beshear points out that USA Today ranked Kentucky fourth in overall personal income growth in 2010; that the state jumped 12 spots in Forbes magazine’s ranking of best places to do business; that its business tax climate was ranked 19th in the nation by the National Tax Foundation, an improvement of 15 spots since 2009; and that the credit rating agency Moody’s predicted Kentucky will have one of the five highest job growth rates in the coming year. However, Moody’s and another rating agency recently lowered Kentucky’s credit rating.

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, every county in Kentucky county but one gained jobs from the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2011, a distinction achieved by no other state. The only county that did not gain jobs was Williams’ home Cumberland County.

Williams prefers to compare Kentucky with neighboring states, which he says are outpacing Kentucky, and cites the testimony of Mike Mangeot, head of the Kentucky Economic Development Association, on right-to-work laws.

Mangeot, who represents local economic developers, was asked how Kentucky could improve its competitiveness with Tennessee and other Southern states. He replied, “Right-towork, honestly. I can tell you it keeps us from the table, period.” He added, “ The personal income tax hurts us especially when dealing with the other seven states that don’t have that.”

In one of his television ads, Williams accused Beshear of losing nearly 100,000 jobs. Most of that loss has been recouped. The ad, and more recent ones from Williams and a supportive group, also cites a report calling Kentucky the worst managed state. That label came from a website that looked mainly at long-term trends in the states, such as education and poverty rather than short-term factors influenced by the current administrations, such as the lower credit rating.

Reporter Christie Craig is a student in the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications. seasons for the Tops’ All- American. Rainey is third on WKU’s all-time rushing list, 136 yards behind second place Willie Taggart.

VIEW. Rainey is clearly the Sun Belt’s player of 2011. Too, if there were a Courage Award for Little Guy player of the year in Kentucky it would belong to Rainey and UK Danny Travathan.

NEWS. University of Kentucky’s board of trustees voted to abolish the committee that oversaw athletics association budget and spending on the other side of Avenue of Champions.

VIEW. Applause, please. Long term, the athletics department operating independent of the University’s oversight should have never happened. Near term, the board’s decision is a watchdog on Mitch Barnhart decisions and ideally will channel profits to pay employees, improve or build new dormitories and cover educational needs. Thankfully, UK has a new president and board of trustees intent on academia as well as sports.

NBA: The List

As NBA commissioner David Stern cancelled games through November last week, a quiz: What do these former NBA players have in common – Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, Scottie Pippen and Latrell Sprewell?

Answer: Along with Antoine Walker, Kenny Anderson, Vin Baker and Derrick Colemen, they made CNBC. com’s list of “Former NBA Players Gone Broke.”

Walker frittered away $110 million, Sprewell $100 million. And, Hall of Famer Dr. J. was forced to foreclose on a $4 million home.

CNBC. com reporter Daniel Bukszpan wrote, “If the lockout jeopardizes the entire season and all of its players’ salaries, it’s not unthinkable that some of them may end up losing astronomical sums of money …”

And so it goes.

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