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Sports in Kentucky



In Kentucky’s football autumn, instead of a frantic search for latest BCS standings as is custom in towns across Alabama, fans are in another week of “woulda-couldashoulda.”

In Bowling Green, Western Kentucky “coulda” had a win streak, except an anemic effort against North Texas so aggravated Willie Taggart, the coach demanded a Sunday morning practice.

In Pittsburgh, Louisville squandered a UConn shutout win the Saturday before by playing between the 20-yard-lines all day while the Panthers freight-trained the Cards 20-3.

In Starkville, bumbling Kentucky let the Dogs out early. Mississippi State cow-belled the Wildcats into submission, after letting them hang around long enough to drive Big Blue fans to a new level of crazy.

Bottom line? The Bluegrass State’s 3 D-1’s let basketball season in early, again. Large crowds showed up for exhibitions at Diddle Arena, Yum Center and Rupp Arena.

But lest we get too far ahead of our basketball selves, opportunity still hangs ripe on the vine for the men of Joker, Charlie and Willie.

Can take a twogame win streak to Knoxville November 27 setting the stage to:

1. Erase a Vols win streak that pre-dates the birth of Heart of Kentucky Football – that would be Randall Cobb of Alcoa, Tennessee – by six years. 1984.

2. Wrench a 7-5 season for the underachieving Wildcats. And, arm recruiters with an opening line to big, ornery defensive prospects: “Sign with Kentucky, you can play now!”

3. Soothe the savage breasts of Big Blue fans who paid higher game ticket prices than ever before and got the usual SEC East bottom-feeder return on their investment … again. Mitch Barnhart should consider refunds.

Cardinals can still finish 8-4. A surprise resurgence at (this week’s foe) Syracuse aside, Charlie Strong’s People get South Florida and West Virginia at Papa John’s then close at Rutgers.

Western Kentucky.
Hilltoppers have four chances at redemption including two at home to set foundation for Taggart Year II.

Whatever level of sag in interest for college football in the state’s three largest cities, the ever entertaining high school playoffs begin this week. A bulwark to stem the tide of fan interest turning to Dream Game in Kentucky.

It won’t be easy, because John Calipari, Rick Pitino and Ken Mc- Donald have promising teams. Also, Murray State and Morehead come off Big Dance seasons last spring and are “up” again.

Calipari: ‘I Like My Team’

How Blue-White scrimmages and exhibitions at Kentucky are better than two-hour practices, John Calipari said last week. “I want to know: When you’ve got numbers on your back, and the lights turned on, how you play. …

“Let’s put 10,000 people in the seats. Now, how do you play? How do you shoot? How do you make free throws? It’s important.

“… we went 40 minutes without a sub (in the Blue-White game). So every kid played every minute. So we got the conditioning we wanted. I get to see, who is a little panic-stricken; and I also get to watch tape of us in that environment and see where the breakdowns were.”

Best early signal? “I like my team,” Calipari said.

Player-to-watch – DeAndre Liggins. Having outgrown the attitude thing, Liggins is positioned to be a linchpin leader on a rookie-laden team.

Fiddlers Revival?

The 50-years-and-up constituency of UK basketball fans have a treat in story. Ex-Wildcat and WAZOO Sports television spokesman Jeff Sheppard said last week his company plans to telecast the 1958 NCAA championship game on Thanksgiving Day.

If true, it will be a premier. Timely too, considering playmaker Adrian ‘Odie’ Smith was inducted into Basketball’s Hall of Fame this year.

This would be opportunity for fans to see Adolph Rupp’s Fiddlin’ Five beat favored Seattle in the only NCAA Tournament won by a team that never left its home state.

UK won the Mideast Regional in Lexington; beat Temple 61-60 at the Final Four at Louisville’s Freedom Hall, then stunned Elgin Baylor-led Seattle for the title.

For one kid a hero was born. Johnny Cox wore No. 24.

Maybe You Missed This
One hundred and 30 years ago this week, tri-founder of the National Football Foundation, Grantland Rice of Murfreesboro, Tennessee penned what some consider the most eloquent sentence in college football history.

“Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again,” Rice wrote of Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen in 1924.

In 1947 Rice and two colleagues created the National Football Foundation. They were General Douglas MacArthur and Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik.

The Four Horsemen? Quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, halfbacks Jim Crowley and Don Miller and fullback Elmer Layden.

Worth Repeating

Reason for rise in concussionproducing hits in football today? “Guys are so lazy nowadays, they don’t want to tackle. They just want the big kill shot,” ex-NFL safety Rodney Harrison told Sports

College and professional players have added to trash talk ignorance and standover a tackled foe chest thump, the knock-you-out shot. Such savagery damages the game.

Worth Repeating II

Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips dispensed a quote for the ages last week. One for young athletes specifically and young people in general. Responding to red-shirt freshman Ridge Wilson’s whine about lack of playing time, Phillips said, “It definitely helps when you keep your mouth shut and do your job.”

The Rondo Rule

The Rondo Rule? NBA brass said recently its millionaire players may no longer wear head bands upside down. Sports writer Bill Dwyer wrote, “most players had stopped wearing head bands altogether, but (Rajon) Rondo carried on, upside down all the way, with Jerry West facing downward on national TV dozens of times a year as the Celtics played in two NBA title series.

So, the Rondo Rule.

Grown men playing a kid’s game wearing head bands is stupid. Rondo wearing one upside down brings to mind a John Wayne truism. “Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

You may reach Bob Watkins at

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