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Sports in Kentucky

State enjoyed a month of good sports-related news



Sports in Kentucky for July’s last week deserved a 21-gun salute.

From Lexington, the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University announced a four year football series starting next season. This is outstanding for fan bases at both programs. Benefits range from creating a regional series that could save teams and fans travel time and money and rival the Governor’s Cup.

Flaw? Western’s first two home dates, 2011 and 2013, will be in Nashville meaning zero bump for Bowling Green’s economy. Reasons?

1. 22,000 seat Houchens-Smith Stadium is not 45,000 seat LP Field in Nashville.

2. WKU director of athletics Wood Selig rates high marks for being fiscally responsible, advancing student-athlete causes, and landing four dates with UK, but he’s still a man with hat in hand who learned lessons in diplomacy from experience with UofL.

From Louisville, at a time when Wall Street to K Street CEOs are still grabbing for bonus money, it is refreshing that University of Louisville President James Ramsey declined a $113,858 bonus. Sober responsibility shown to faculty and students, even while athletics at UofL (and UK) spend on.

“It wouldn’t be right to take an increase or bonus in lean budget years,” Ramsey told reporters.

A UofL student told the Courier

Journal: “… that sends an excellent message. You’ve got difficult economic times; you’ve got students having to find money for tuition and various costs.”

From Bowling Green, Western Kentucky All-American and 1967 Mr. Basketball Jim McDaniels held a camp for kids at Warren Central High recently. Current Hilltoppers A.J. Slaughter and Dominique Duck lent their presence.

Western men’s coach Ken McDonald donated 35 basketballs for McDaniels’s camp. Stark contrast to UK coach John Calipari charging $75 a kid for 3-hour day camp stops later this month.

From St. Louis, tribute for Kentucky via a Sporting News feature on Greatest Coaches Ever. I recommend it.

No. 1. John Wooden. Wizard of Westwood began his career at Dayton, Kentucky.

No. 3 Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, UK coach 1946-53.

No. 21. Adolph Rupp.

No. 30. Pat Riley.

Rupp should have ranked ahead of No. 8 Dean Smith, No. 11 Pat Summitt, No. 16 Bob Knight and No. 19 Mike Krzyzewski because his teams not only won four national championships, his personality was a force in elevating college hoops to importance enough that profit-minded television and shoe companies jumped in and created a profession that made Smith, Knight and the rest, famous and rich. Adolph Rupp set the table.

Pat Summitt rated 11th is too low also. The impact Tennessee’s coach has had on women’s basketball specifically and women’s sports generally is no less remarkable than Wooden’s or Rupp’s footprints. Her demand for academic then athletic responsibility puts Summitt at the summit of role modeling for women.

From Sonora in Hardin County, basketball Hall of Famerto be Corky Withrow of Central City continued on the Road to the Hall of Fame. Honored at a celebration dinner hosted by entrepreneur Charles Thurman, when Withrow’s time to speak, he thanked his host, then imparted a bit of wisdom to friends, old teammates, rivals and family attending (paraphrasing), “… if this (resurrected fame) had happened 20-orso years ago it wouldn’t mean near as much as it does now. Because my grandchildren get to see and learn something about their grand dad.”

Donovan’s Brain Hiccups

Proving that July is a slow month in the Sunshine State, Billy Donovan has lost his luster, an

Orlando Sentinel columnist wrote last month. Florida’s basketball program has “taken a step back,” it said.

Its been two winters since Billy Ball and the Gators were Sports Center headliners and Donovan was a sports media darling.

The step back idea is rooted in player defections, recruit-rebuffs, not winning enough and attendance decline. Of course Gator football national titles in 2006 and 2008 and Tim Tebow mania put basketball crowns in 2006 and 2007 in total eclipse.

If Billy the Kid has lost his shine, I think it attributable in part to two brain hiccups.

Offered the Kentucky job in 2007 he declined.

Ignoring shipwrecks by P.J. Carlesimo, Rick Pitino, Calipari, Leonard Hamilton and a host of others who took a bite of NBA bitter fruit, Donovan said no to Kentucky, accepted a pay hike in Gainsville, then took the Orlando Magic job. Suffering buyer’s remorse, he whined, “please take me back.” Florida did and the Magic’s compensation became a Billy ban from NBA coaching for another three years.

I suspect two championships, $3 million a year, the infinite shadow of Gator football and fickle hoops fans, have dulled Donovan’s passion. Thus, a drop in recruiting and winning, then a down spin picture to “Billy’s lost his shine.”

Billy the Kid would never admit it, but saying no to Kentucky twice was a Titanic mistake.

He would have been a better fit at Kentucky than Billy Clyde Gillispie and John Calipari combined by, oh, what say you, six million dollars?

And so it goes. You can reach Bob Watkins at sprtsinky@aol.com

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