“ … I knew it was going to be difficult. You knew what you were getting into.” — New UK Coach Mark Stoops before losing to Western Kentucky.
Before everybody goes all ballistic on new Coach Mark Stoops and Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart, the guy who brought Stoops to Big Blue Nation, let’s take a chill pill, wait a week and see how the Tennessee’s new savior Butch Jones fares against Bobby Petrino. It should be interesting. As the old saying goes, misery loves company, and we may have some brothers from the SEC right beside us as we drift through the 2013 season.
We are now officially off on another magic carpet ride with a new Kentucky football coach. After all the antics that took place down in Nashville over the weekend, we can now thank the UK defense for providing us with a new Heisman Trophy candidate this week in Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty, who went 27 for 34 while tallying up 275 yards with one TD against the inept Kentucky defense.
One month ago at the annual UK football media days, several of the young pups just coming on the scene at UK spoke in glowing terms about the turnaround of UK football coming quicker than most expect. To be perfectly honest, I bought into the theory myself and agreed with several of the freshman. Never let it be said that I will not admit my mistakes. On hindsight, it may take a little longer than we all thought because it’s obvious the cupboard is a little thinner than originally thought, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
What hurts the most today, especially to high-ranking UK Athletics Association officials, is that it was obvious that offensive guru Bobby Petrino got the best of the defensive guru Mark Stoops.
Now don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly agree with the column that John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote last week concerning UK making the correct hire of Stoops instead of Petrino last December. Given the proper amount of time and financial resources it takes to win in the SEC, I still think Stoops will take the program to a consistently competitive level of play. Besides, who knows if Petrino would have even taken the UK job if it were offered last year. It wasn’t an attractive job at the time.
Back to present day. Most of all I hope all those 22 verbal commitments Stoops has attracted couldn’t find the correct satellite signal to witness UK’s first game action with Stoops as head coach.
Stoops got his first dose Saturday of how making game decisions as a head coach is completely different than making them as a defensive coordinator. However, he may have his toughest decision of 2013 still lying in front of him and he has to make it quick — like sometime in the next two weeks — before NCAA eligibility rules take over.
That decision is should he redshirt several young Wildcat players (Jason Hatcher, Reggie Meant, Jaleel Hytche, Blake McClain) or play them all season and send several good solid young men (seniors Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble, Tristan Johnson, Alvin Davis) off the game field and to the sideline.
The bottom line is what’s best for the total program in this renovation project Stoops has taken on. We all will probably have to remember Stoops’ own words many times in the coming weeks: “It’s a process folks. There is no quick fix.”
Texas A & M
This will be my one and only mention of the Johnny Manziel/ Texas A&M scandal in this column.
Anybody that has closely followed college football and the NCAA like I have since the 1960’s will tell you that at least half of every NCAA manual that has been adopted by its membership since that decade have a direct correlation to rules broken by Texas schools in the old Southwest Conference. And let’s not forget the SEC and our own past demons with these same policies.
Now we have mixed the old cowboy demons of Texas with the southern bible belt mentality of win at any cost into the same conference and, hocus pocus, in just one year we have produced another NCAA scandal that may lead to turning everybody loose on both sides to make as much money as corruption can provide.
In a couple years those ridiculous ticket prices may be a bargain compared to getting a simple autographed jersey.
Columnist Ira Combs lives in Jeff in Perry County where he operates Tri State Sports Media Service Inc. with his brother Harold. Their website is www.combsbrothersonkysports.com.