For University of Kentucky fans, last week was the likes of which I’ve not witnessed. A black-onblue.
The clouds began rolling over the Bluegrass State January 4 and dropped more than a few inches of snow. Kentucky’s Lady Cats squandered opportunity at Duke, then lost at Arkansas, came home and lost to Georgia. A No. 9 ranking had become a three-game losing streak.
On Saturday, Joker Phillips’s football team was scheduled to play Pitt in the Compass Bowl, but Tin Man showed up. In losing 27-10 to Pittsburgh, these Wildcats showed no heart and no enthusiasm either. UK was not ready to play and left with a black eye, and most lopsided bowl loss in school history.
Black eye? Players turned ornery, lost self discipline and brawled on the field. Adding to the embarrassment, suspended quarterback Mike Hartline was on the sidelines — a physical reminder of this team’s downward spiral.
Joker Phillips should give a month’s pay to his favorite charity.
These losses came on the heels of the NCAA’s ruling Friday on Enes Kanter. UK president Lee Todd issued his disappointed statement on the NCAA’s decision. He might well have issued a public apology to UK Faithful who traveled to Birmingham.
Saturday evening, more black on blue. The basketball Wildcats added their contribution. Despite taking 21 more shots than Georgia and scoring five more field goals, 27-22, UK was beaten by seven. Calipari’s team did not lose, it was beaten.
Silver linings to black-on-blue?
New week, new opportunity.
Free Enes Kanter?
Enes Kanter should have been allowed to play basketball at Kentucky.
New country, new city, new chance for a student-athlete in good academic standing one semester in, should have been enough for NCAA rule-keepers to justify giving Kanter access to that which has made USA great, a new chance.
Let’s be clear, NCAA decisions involving Cam Newton at Auburn and four football players at Ohio State, had no logical link to Kanter’s case. None. One that does involves Renardo Sidney at Mississippi State.
The 6-9, 250-pound Sidney was allowed to pay back the money that made him a professionalsomething, sit out a season, and be eligible.
When Sidney brawled with a teammate December 23 and was suspended indefinitely, I thought the episode might put Kanter in a new light – model student-athlete who wants to be in college.
Yet, in a scratch-your-noggin decision, the NCAA eligibility committee would not let go of the $33,000 issue.
Villain in all this? Fenerbahce Ulker. The Turkish club provided evidence to the NCAA affirming Kanter was a professional.
Most troubling is the NCAA’s wobbly history of taffy-pull approach to applying its rules. Bend them however an eligibility committee chooses. The ruling on Kanter punishes a teenager when it could have been a way to enlighten a student-athlete about guarding his/her eligibility more carefully.
The NCAA committee also lost an opportunity to reflect the civility of second chances in America.
Epilogue. Kanter is out. Renardo Sydney is in with a third chance. We wonder, but expect never to know, if UK basketball’s bad boy history of rules violations and probations affected NCAA decision-makers?
Enes is Free!
Some ride, huh? To borrow and paraphrase, “Free at least, free at last, thanks to the Gods of basketball, Enes Kanter is free at last.”
Free from what, to do what?
With sympathy to the fan who coined Free Enes, presumably without establishing copyright, and with due respect to tee-shirt profiteers, here in the land of the free, the freedoms Kanter has won, seems to me, include …
• Leave the $33,000 in the bank to collect interest.
• No obligation to send a Christmas Card to Aziz Yildirim, president of Fenerbahce Ulker basketball club in Turkey.
Free to …
• Attend college classes.
• Live at Wildcat Lodge.
• Training table privileges.
• Shoot the breeze with sundry celebrities visiting Rupp Arena from a seat in Cal’s section.
• Work out in state-of-the-art weight training facilities, 24/7.
• Around campus, co-eds are still drawn to very tall, dark and handsome.
• Cash in. Ruled to be a professional, maybe Kanter could make television commercials with his ball coach. Maybe a travelogue – exotic foods and sites to enjoy in the Ottoman Empire.
• And, no more bad jokes like: “Didja hear about Enes Kanter transferring to Duke? The NCAA said he can play immediately.”
For Kentucky fans? Time to move on.
And so it goes.
You may reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com.