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Sports in Kentucky

Are Ky. stars really ‘weak sister to the south?’



What is the future of the Kentucky Indiana spring basketball series?

The Hoosier boys’ sweep again this year brought stinging commentary from one dot.com writer in Indiana:

“If there was any doubt about the amount anyone really cares anymore in what has become a fun weekend for Indiana to beat up on its weak sister to the south, it was washed away as the boys game was played with a women’s ball,” wrote Kent Sterling. “The women’s ball is smaller, and has a big 28.5 stamped prominently on it. That no one noticed for the first three minutes at Conseco Fieldhouse tells you just what level of focus for this series.”

A series that began August 16, 1940 at Butler Fieldhouse has come to: “… Indiana’s weak sister to the south?”


Some Hoosiers are suggesting a series with Ohio or Michigan.

So, what’s happened to a series that gave fans their last glimpse of such high schoolers-headed-tostardom as Oscar Robertson, Wes Unseld, Rick Mount, Larry Bird, Jim McDaniels, Ralph Beard and a host of others?

• Basketball-is-religion-in- Kentucky is a myth. Exaggeration. In truth, beyond the Kentucky Wildcats, basketball rises to level of religious fervor only as a revival meeting in spring.

• Indiana’s talent pool is broader, deeper and more urban competitive. Making the all-star team is important to Hoosiers while south of the Ohio River a call to arms for underdogs has become hollow and with a yawn. Outrageous as it is, some all-staters more frequently ignore invitations to try out.

• Kentucky’s Lions Foundation has supported the series gallantly, I suppose. And, to lure more fans, community organizers tried moving the game to venues in Lexington, Louisville, Frankfort, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and back to Louisville. Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball fraternity got involved also. Nothing has stirred fans in Kentucky. So, maybe Indiana should find a new summer-time opponent to replace its weak sister to the south.

If so few Kentucky fans show up and players don’t recognize a smaller basketball, maybe 70 years is enough.

Strange Bedfellows

Strange how college sports and academics have become strange bedfellows?

A Knight Commission report last week titled “Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values and the Future of College Sports “read like something that should have had the word duh in its title.

The Commission wants financial and academic reforms, including the idea NCAA schools should set aside 20 percent from football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) revenues for academic use.

TWENTY percent.

Can anyone imagine Mitch Barnhart or Tom Jurich pipe-lining a fifth of bowl and Big Dance profits earned by plantation hands at the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville to take pressure off student costs, faculty raises and building projects at Universities of Kentucky and Louisville?

I can’t.

The timing of The Knight report “couldn’t have been better,” the Associated Press reported.

Really? The “good timing” of Big Ten grabbing Nebraska and Pac Ten gobbling up Colorado and Utah is more about television revenues and nothing to do with costs in higher education or improving APRs. Duh.

University of Maryland Chancellor Dr. William Kirwan said, “There is every reason to believe that the current direction of bigtime college sports is leading us to even greater imbalances in the fiscal priority of athletics over academics.”

What a revelation.

What odds would you give that administrators at our state’s biggest sports-spend operations consign 20 per cent of its largess any time soon across the street to academia?

Stop laughing.

News & Views

NEWS. Ex-Kentucky player Walter McCarty leaves Louisville to be an assistant for the NBA Pacers; Ex-UofL player Kenny Payne leaves University of Oregon to become an assistant at Kentucky.

VIEW. That Pacers coach Jim O’Brien wanted a former player (at UK where McCarty helped the Wildcats to an NCAA title in 1996) to join his staff 14 years later, says much about the native Hoosier’s character. That Payne looks “… forward to being a part of (UK), growing as a coach and helping Kentucky win a national title,” says much about the Mississippi native who helped UofL to an NCAA title in 1986.

NEWS. USA beat England 1-1 last week, then tied (got jobbed?) Slovenia 2-2.

VIEW. Soccer is undeniable the planet’s most popular sport, but a ball sport with off ensive strategies that involve going backward to go forward and 90 minute games that too often end 1-0, may be too much for all but the newest generation of Americans whose sports psyche is imprinted at birth with the jargon of first downs, 3-point lines, rally cap innings, ear-splitting RPMs at NASCAR tracks, and post-score struts by jock-heads who believe flexing a bicep is entertainment.

NEWS. Tom Izzo said no to the Cavaliers, will stay at Michigan State “for life.”

VIEW. Finally, a wealthy college ball coach bright enough to see the NBA rates a place with death and taxes where a coach is mostly ignored by employees and inevitably fired by employer.

NEWS. Sponsors of the Top 100 Camp for prime high school prospects in Charlottesville, Virginia hired Tywanna Patterson as a counselor for parents of college recruits-to-be.

VIEW. Outstanding. Who better to advise parents and guardians, woo them and the kid away from AAU coaches, posse influence and street agents, than Patrick Patterson’s mom? Bonus: A How-To session on dealing with celebrity, VIP coaches and sitting the bench after getting to campus.

Parting Shot

With the Eric Bledsoe investigation in mind, a fan wrote, “if UK had made it to the Final Four (and) considering NCAA punishments to UMass and Memphis, if UK has to forfeit (35) wins, is John Calipari out at Kentucky?

Answer: Forfeiture of games could constitute just cause for a firing, but with Mitch Barnhart and Lee Todd in charge and absent any sustained public outcry, or having to give back money, Calipari is safe as a Supreme Court justice.

And so it goes You may reach bob Watkins at

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