Whitesburg KY

Wildcats continue to impress analysts and others

Bob Watkins

Bob Watkins

Kentucky’s football team acquitted itself well against Mississippi State last week. By “old days” standards, a two-touchdown loss to the No. 1 team in America would be a win of sorts. Not anymore.

Mississippi State demonstrated what Mark Stoops already knows — there is much to do before Kentucky gets into the conversation about an SEC championship.

Meanwhile, Big Blue fans ought be pleased with how perception is becoming reality. Television analysts Jesse Palmer (SEC Network) and Gary Danielson (CBS) have joined Andre Ware singing praises.

Palmer is a well-spoken communicator with SEC combat experience (Florida). Ware owns a Heisman and Danielson is as canny and well seasoned an analyst as there is in football. Their opinions matter.

Covering Kentucky each dutifully described shortcomings and gaffes, but all three mouthed high praise for the All-New-People Wildcats and what Stoops and staff are doing. Their sunny side commentary is gold. Raises Kentucky’s recruiting profile to uncommon heights even if still below the waterline set at Alabama, Georgia and LSU.

Coach Mark Stoops continues to draw praise for the work he is doing to build a winning football program at the University of Kentucky, writes columnist Bob Watkins. (AP photo)

Coach Mark Stoops continues to draw praise for the work he is doing to build a winning football program at the University of Kentucky, writes columnist Bob Watkins. (AP photo)

Early playing time remains the lure at Kentucky, but sweet talk from Palmer, Ware, Danielson and others is more valuable than the most clever and flattering tweets from coaches.

Persuading a prospect to visit campus is central to success and Commonwealth Stadium is more frequently a popular visit for high caliber high school prospect. Hard evidence? See the roster, number of sophomores and freshmen, and increasing number newcomers afforded red shirts.

So, having survived LSU and competed evenly with Mississippi State, Kentucky travels to Missouri with a fair chance — and a fair chance to win one or more of its final four games.

Bell Tolls For Tar Heels

Paper classes for student-athletes at North Carolina?

From former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein, just a new acronym for what we called 18 years ago, Basket Weaving 101.

But Wainstein dropped a bomb on Chapel Hill last week, moving Kentucky fans to chortle and selfrighteous media types to jump on the exposé bandwagon, create a drum beat demand for public humiliation then a collective lynching.

Wainstein’s report, I think, assures us these preliminaries: v A UNC investigation to discredit the messenger. Leak to media herd will send reporters scurrying to find the former federal prosecutor’s allegiances. He must be a closet Duke fan, or a Kentucky loyalist. In fact, Wainstein is a University of Virginia and UC Berkeley graduate. v Get a UNC spinner onto John Stewart’s Daily Show. v UNC lieutenants working for ball coaches Dean Smith-to-Roy Williams are worthy of a backhand congratulation. They kept an academic fraud going all way back to time when a new word in our lexicon was Taliban. v Makes squeaky-clean North Carolina a candidate for a Sports Illustrated cover. Shame the Sequel. v The proportions and fallout from this scandal could make NCAA chiefs angry enough at UNC-Chapel Hill to slap the death penalty on UNC-Charlotte.

For now, for North Carolina’s proud athletics administration, the bell tolls for thee. Tar Heels Inc. is forced to lawyer up, try and subvert pious (Williams) being dragged out of denial into the hot lights of national media.

• Three years ago University researcher Mary Willingham was fired as a whistle blower, then discredited as a plagiarist.

• Ex-player, Rashad McCants who paper classed his way to success, spoke up on academic fraud, was roundly skewed for it, but urged former teammates to “just show your transcripts.” Recently, McCants’ picture was taken down from a wall in the school’s media room.

Meanwhile, the intrigue thickens. As this relates to University of Kentucky’s much documented dirty laundry history, I will be among those interested to see how the NCAA handles Carolina coaches, in particular Roy Williams.

Will the NCAA give him the Kelvin Sampson- at- Indiana treatment : Crucifixion? Or, will it permit the deniability stratagem? One that allows the ball coach a pass: “I didn’t know anything, therefore I’m not responsible.”

Let us hope the NCAA concludes its investigation, renders a judgment, then outlasts Carolina’s (four corners?) appeals, then applies justice at least 24 hours before the Big Five announces itself divorced from the NCAA altogether, letting Carolina and the rest to get back to business as usual.

Parting Shot

Ex-Kentucky guard Doron Lamb was waived by the NBA Dallas Mavericks last Saturday. In five preseason games he averaged 9.6 minutes playing time and 3.4 points.

A member of UK’s 2012 national championship team, Lamb left for the NBA draft after his sophomore season. Now a free agent, Lamb’s birthday is Thursday.

What next for a 23-yearold with no college degree and possibly no professional basketball options?

And so it goes

You can reach Watkins at bob.watkins24@aol.com

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