Kentucky and Louisville football coaches wedged their way into a crowded news cycle last week.
UofL’s Charlie Strong continued to win hearts and minds while UK’s Joker Phillips did his best to make the best of a bad hand dealt him before the SEC coach-media meeting in Hoover, Alabama.
Strong visits to the Kosair Children’s Hospital, a youth football clinic in his city’s west end last week, earned a newspaper headline and opportunity to tell a Louisville reporter, “My role as a head coach is to go touch as many lives as I can.”
Genuine, admirable … and timely.
Phillips by contrast, already saddled by increased ticket prices, sagging ticket sales and a feeble four or three-game Mini-Pack gimmick, answered questions that begged for no comment.
Ironic, UK ticket sale tactics have become a reminder of Howard Schnellenberger’s first years at UofL. Tickets to Cardinal games went for a song and/or a coupon from Kroger’s.
Today, in a league CBS Sports bought for a billion dollars and tickets are a premium in every other SEC town south of our state line, Mitch Barnhart is pitching mini-packs.
Phillips had to field questions about coaching hot seats, to which at the least damages recruiting. His name is 31st on one hot seat list behind Tennessee’s Derek Dickey at fifth and Florida’s Will Muschamp at 23rd.
Kentucky, media types predict, will win no SEC games and finish last in the league.
A more sunny view from here, as low expectation can be an ideal place to launch motivational speeches, i.e. “Men, it’s us against the world! Lets go prove ’em all wrong!”
When asked the question UK football coaches have dreaded since Bear Bryant was given a cigarette lighter while Adolph Rupp got a Cadillac, Phillips waffled. “Isn’t Kentucky a “basketball school?” he was asked. Trying to dance with this ugly one, he waffled and said any exposure of UK’s logo helps his program.
If ever a media query begged for a Les Miles-style reply, this was it. Phillips ought to have responded, “Next question!”
Hall of Fame speeches at Cooperstown in July can be too long, emotional or, hit a home run. In 2005 Ryan Sandberg’s speech was out-of-the-park perfect.
But last Sunday, former Cincinnati Red shortstop Barry Larkin hit a grand slam. His speech was heroic, grateful, humbling, genuine and timely.
If you missed it, Google Larkin’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech on the Internet.
And so it goes.