Whitesburg KY

Is it time to shelve UK vs. UofL for a while?



Let’s crunch a few numbers about the Governor’s Cup, Kentucky at Louisville.

Since 1994 the series has been a fixture for television, albeit played on whatever day and at whatever time a network chooses. Kentucky leads the series 14-10, and it has been a model for parity. Each school has won half of the last 10 games.

From coaches Howard Schnellenberger to Charlie Strong for UofL, and Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips for Kentucky, the passion and bragging have been kept mostly at a healthy tone and temperature and decibel level.

Two years ago the Howard Schnellenberger Award was instituted. Most outstanding player in the game went to UK’s Derrick Locke in 2010, and UofL’s Dexter Heyman last year. All is well, right? I don’t think so — certainly not as season opener.

Times have changed. For Kentucky, SEC expansion means the likelihood of an added league game. For Louisville, moving to another more challenging conference is in the cards.

The Governor’s Cup was a dream-come-true for Schnellenberger and “fair thing” thinking by former UK coach Bill Curry. It elevated Louisville football and was a coup for Cardinals director of athletics Tom Jurich. For Kentucky’s up-and-mostly down football program it has become a physical and psychological bruise tattooed on before going into America’s black-and-bruiser meat grinder SEC.

With each school having split the last 10 games, next week’s Governor’s Cup should be tiebreaker and appears to be the right time to put the series on pause — say for five years.

Favored by two touchdowns next week and picked to win the Big East this season, Louisville no longer needs the team in Lexington to get a TV date. Cardinal Football has gotten its brand to a level where flirtation with the Big 12 is not a joke.

Kentucky? Start with 2,060 reasons to put the UofL series on the shelf. That’s the number of tickets Wildcat fans did not buy for the Governor’s Cup game next week.

Stark reality: UK fans have taken a powder for Week One in 2012, abandoned their team for its season opener. For Big Blue Nation it’s Labor Day weekend, backyard party and ESPN.

Unless Joker Phillips’ underdog team stuns UofL or makes an impressive showing at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium September 2, the home opener six nights later with Kent State (5-7 last year) won’t be a sellout either.

From there, if we start to hear echoes cascade across empty seats at Commonwealth Stadium, then (nice man) Joker Phillips will start to hear drumbeat and groans in the distance.

We all know too well the rest of this medley.

Miracle At West Liberty?

Story of the year in Kentucky for 2012? I have a nominee.

Rebuild has been a watchword around West Liberty in Morgan County since March 4, when a tornado ravaged downtown. Last week a new sparkle of sunlight burst out following the whir of helicopter blades. It became an occasion to stir the soul, restore optimism and faith in our fellows.

University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari flew into the town of 4,000-plus and sparked a fund-raiser. At the coach’s urging, donations began to roll in — thousands of dollars. Rebuild a town, rejuvenate county and help a region rebound from its March catastrophe.

Calipari challenged Kentuckians to donate. They did and he matched every dollar. In November, a basketball game at Rupp Arena will feature former Wildcats with proceeds going to help rebuild West Liberty.

The Man UK Fans Forgot

The coach (too) many Big Blue Nation fans still try to forget, Dr. Orlando “Tubby” Smith. He received a contract extension from Minnesota recently.

What a career for Tubby. In 21 seasons (Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota), his teams gave fans 20-plus win season 18 times, all 10 at Kentucky.

At UK, 263-83 (76 percent), three wins in every four games, an NCAA title.

And this statistic: In the pantheon of basketball coaches at Kentucky only one was never connected to an NCAA rules violations and/or probation.

Quite a legacy for Dr. Tubby Smith.

And so it goes.

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