If Kentucky’s Governor’s Cup series had a Mt. Rushmore it would be a chiseled likeness of Howard Schnellenberger.
Resurrector of football at Miami and Louisville, one of The Howard’s legacies isn’t mentioned enough — persuading fans, after basketball crazies stopped laughing, that Kentucky is a football state.
Showcase symbols? Buzz about Governor’s Cup, high school expanded class system and on-going (Geneva) talks on Public-Private issues. Others may claim credit, but when the woolen curtain of August hangs heavy over the Bluegrass State, Howard the Godfather comes to mind.
And so his presence at last week’s Governor’s Cup festivities in Louisville was fitting. An All-American at Kentucky, coach at UofL with stops between and since, Schnellenberger donned a cap with UK blue on one side, UofL red on the other.
Last year’s 40-34 UK win was evidence anew the Governor’s Cup ought be played later in the season. Thanksgiving.
The September 15 outcome had the feel of season-maker for Rich Brooks’s team and season heartbreaker for the Cardinals. Kentucky soared to five-and-oh start. Steve Kragthorpe’s top 10 ranked Cardinals wobbled, staggered and sank into no bowl land.
Favorite for the this year’s clash at Papa John Stadium? Doesn’t matter. Level of fan buzz during next four weeks is the important thing. Howard the Godfather recognized that long before anyone else.
Joining two Louisville wide receivers in Knucklehead Land are two Kentucky quarterbacks. Junior Curtis Pulley was locked up for sundry motor vehicle violations following an arrest for drug possession a month earlier.
Last week, Will Fidler was hauled away for fighting outside a Lexington restaurant at 2 a.m. Impact of these knucklehead episodes? (Seething?) Coach Rich Brooks must balance his reputation for no tolerance for bad behavior with how to discipline Pulley and Fidler, knowing the team’s season is on the line.
Upside? Michael Hartline is Andre Woodson’s successor. And, opportunity for true freshman quarterback. Randall Cobb?
You’re up, coach.
ESPN: UK Rates 4th
Most prestigious men’s college basketball programs since 1984-85? ESPN researchers got it right. And no, Billy Packer had no input.
Duke, followed by North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona. Second five: UConn, UCLA, UNLV, Syracuse and Georgetown.
ESPN summary on Kentucky…
Positives: 20 conference titles (8 regular-season, 12 tourney); six 30-win seasons; 21 NCAA berths; four Final Fours; 1996 and ’98 national titles; 52 NCAA tourney wins; 10 All-Americans; five NBA top-10 picks.
Negatives: One losing season (Eddie Sutton’s 13-19 in 1988- 89); 2 NCAA sanctions (under Joe Hall and Sutton); has not advanced past the NCAA tourney first weekend since 2005.
Did you know? The premier program in the SEC cracks the Top 5 despite being banned from the NCAA tournament twice. The Wildcats dominated the conference tournament, earning 12 automatic berths. Made three straight national title games from 1996-1998 and won twice. However, Kentucky has not been to a Final Four since.
Comment: ESPN’s assessment is reasonable with one exception. Recruiting. For more than a decade UK has been beaten for best of the best prospects by Duke, Carolina and Kansas.
Dis ‘N Data
— Cheers to Jacob Tamme. UK’s All-SEC tight end from Danville signed with the Indianapolis Colts last week. Thankfully, details of Tamme’s contract were not disclosed.
— Hard road turns yellow brick road. Kelenna Azubuike went undrafted after leaving Kentucky following his junior year, 2005. He labored in the NBA’s developmental league for two seasons, received a 10-day call-up to Golden State. Last week the Warriors offered Azubuike a three-year contract worth $9 million.
Readers (Right) Write
• About Billy Packer … several comments. An abridged version of one, from Paul in Louisville:
“Billy Packer became a quieter version of Dickie V. The only time he was good was when he had Al McGuire to keep him in check. When Billy was wrong Al would tell him so. When he didn’t have Al, he was never wrong. I’d as soon listen to Al talk about his (toy) soldiers as anything Packer had to say.
“I don’t have much hope that Clark Kellogg will be an improvement. ‘Spurtability’ doesn’t impress me. I may even find two hours of Kellogg more annoying than Packer. I would much prefer Len Elmore call the game.”
And so it goes.