A sparkle in college basketball shines through the money every now and then.
How perfect that freshmanhyped Kentucky would stagger through a season opener and be saved at the end by a kid who resembles Opie Taylor?
The play of Jarrod Polson, the Jessamine County high school star who turned down scholarships to smaller schools to walk on at Kentucky, was a surprise to Maryland’s coach Mark Turgeon, but maybe not so much for the old guard in Big Blue Nation. When the 6-2 junior from Nicholasville popped in a pair of killer free throws at 07.2 seconds to ice the win, it gave us pause to consider:
• A new UK jersey on the market this week. No. 5.
• Polson might have gotten a roster spot in the beginning to prop up the team’s GPA chart, but the kid had smarts and ambition enough to make himself more than part of a clean-up crew. Kentucky traditionalists have embraced this same story since Adolph Rupp “invented” the game.
• Homeboy got a chance. Sometimes it’s all a Kentucky kid needs, opportunity. Polson’s play was straight out of a chapter about a pair of too-slow and talentchallenged Kentuckians of the late Eighties and early Nineties, John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus. Their hearts and will to win for Big Blue fans was the size of Johnson and Mason counties combined.
• Polson’s performance brought to mind a remark made by 1961-62 All-SEC guard Larry Pursiful, who came to Kentucky via the community of Four Mile in Bell County: “Put a Kentucky uniform on a kid from this state and he’ll be 10 points better than he would somewhere else.”
Bilas Electoral College
The election results are in. It’s official. ESPN’s Jay Bilas — an electoral college unto himself — issued his analytical edict last week:
“… stop yearning for a basketball time that no longer exists. We’ve got a younger game now. It’s almost like we as a basketball community refuse to admit it,” Bilas said through the Lexington Herald-Leader.
If Bilas is right, college hoops traditionalists across our Red State Commonwealth are going to have to join Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party and “just get over it!”
The “younger game” means …
• Time erosion. Bilas is three decades removed from his days (1982) playing for Mike Krzyzewski, who touted student-athletics in its purest form. Now that he’s rich and a celebrity, has Bilas lost the meaning?
• Principles erosion. That so few Americans care that college coaches go into an 18-year-old’s living room and talk money over learning (use of knife and fork in public … how to write a check) is reprehensible.
• Values erosion. Bill Self is latest ball coach to give in to the reality of one-and-done. Self now wants to see college athletes “get paid.” The Kansas coach has not explained “salary figures,” particularly for field hockey players, or members of the women’s soccer and softball teams.
• Compensation for studentathletes. Bilas, Self nor anyone else on college basketball’s supreme court that I know of, has mentioned the dollar value of a college scholarship. Today a oneyear scholarship is $18,000. What’s four years and a degree worth? You do the math, and don’t stop at $72,000.
• Fans. New or traditionalist, you are a minor part of this cash cow. Television and shoe companies wag this dog. Fans supplement the sport by buying tickets, popcorn, parking spots, souvenirs and clothing — all including a licensing fee of course.
Bottom line. Fans who count themselves traditionalists or new age, are not really relevant in “Younger Game” theorem. And, relevance of college administrators, particularly university presidents, is on the decline too.
How? On the idea of re-setting definition of student-athlete and age limits, the NCAA and college presidents remain silent. Why? Nobody wants to bother the golden goose.
According to Bilas, we need to “just get over it.”
Bobby Petrino as candidate for the Kentucky job is a bad idea. Period.
That ex-(pick a place) coach Petrino is being touted as “an offensive genius” ought to remind fans (and Mitch Barnhart) that we’ve heard this song before. Remember when Hal Mumme with Tim Couch at quarterback would vault UK to the SEC title? Instead, we got four mediocreto poor seasons and NCAA probation.
Weighing Petrino’s coaching skills against his full résumé against where Kentucky football is and wants to go should eliminate him immediately.
Other candidates may be eliminating themselves:
• Mike Leach at Washington State had a player quit his team last week. The kid said the coach abuses his players. A charge was also made against Leach at Texas Tech.
• Tommy Tuberville, coach at Texas Tech, slapped a graduate assistant coach during a game last Saturday.
• David Cutcliffe has Duke bowl eligible at 6-4, but the Blue Devils have played a lightweight schedule and lost three of their last four games.
A candidate whose résumé should earn him top consideration to replace Joker Phillips is Sonny Dykes at Louisiana Tech.
Dykes runs a spread offense, loves the passing game has LTech at 9-1 this season. And, he’s a 43-year-old family man with experience.
Fans, First In A Series
About one-and-done in college basketball, specifically at Kentucky, this is first in a series of views from fans.
From J.L. in Elizabethtown:
“I’ve been a die-hard UK basketball fan since the mid-1950s. The game has changed a lot over 60 years. The pros are playing for really big bucks and there seems to be a lot more professional teams. When many college grads can’t find a job, “one-and-doners” are becoming instant millionaires. Basketball is entertainment! They’re entertainers!
“I want Kentucky to get the best players out there and I want those players to stay at UK for four years. Would love to see Anthony Davis around for three more years. (But) It would be a shame if he blew out a knee. Had Davis gone to Duke or UofL, he probably would still be a one-and-doner.”
And so it goes.