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You can’t make fans think these are ‘openers’




 

 

You can’t fool football fans of the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky. They know an opening game when they see one – and fans of the Wildcats and Cardinals are not going to see any openers this week. Or next week, for that matter. Earl Cox

Speaking of the matter, the one that matters won’t be played until 7:30 p.m., Sept. 15, when U of L goes to Lexington to meet the Wildcats in the real opening game.

For the record, U of L plays Murray at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, on ESPNU. On Sept. 6, the Cardinals will be host to Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

UK plays Eastern Kentucky at 6 p.m., Saturday, on the Big Blue Network. The telecast will be delayed. It’ll be the same situation for the second week of the season when Kent State shows up at 6 p.m., Sept. 8.

Now let’s fast-forward to the UK-U of L game. It will be played at 7:30 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 15. If you get Louisville’s WHAS-TV or Lexington’s WKYT-TV, you can watch the game in the comfort of your home. Same if you get one of the ESPN stepchildren, ESPN Classic. Not many Kentuckians do.

If you don’t get any of the three, blame the University of Kentucky and its football coach, Rich Brooks. He’s the scaredycat who doesn’t like to play U of L in the opening game when national TV would show it. Next year, when U of L makes the decision, the game will be the opener at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and you can watch it on ESPN or ESPN2.

Play state teams

Let’s face it. The first two games of the season for both UK and U of L won’t be much more than scrimmages. That’s what college football has come to for most teams – but not all. Some real games will be played Saturday.

So, if U of L and UK have to play teams out of their class, it’s good that U of L will share the wealth with a state team (Murray will get $300,000) and UK will do the same (Eastern will get $200,000). Prediction: EKU will give UK a much better game than Murray will mount against U of L.

Will Brohm rest?

Don’t look for U of L’s Steve Kragthorpe to pull his Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Brian Brohm, from the game early. He is on record as not believing in that, so Brohm and his highly touted teammates may pour it on. I just hope that no one gets hurt.

And, besides, it would be nice if Hunter Cantwell, from nearby Paducah, gets a chance to show his stuff against Murray.

Where’s our governor?

I am almost totally against politicians getting involved with our college athletic teams, but there are notable exceptions. For instance when the Atlantic Coast Conference expanded two years ago, Virginia Tech wanted to be included, but the ACC wasn’t in favor.

Not so fast, my friend, as Lee Corso would say. The governor of Virginia put pressure on ACC member Virginia to get the ACC to agree to include Tech.

Now EKU could use some help like that. WKU is going big time in football. Its conference has a rule that, because its members are Division I, they can’t travel to a school that isn’t Division I. That means that WKU can no longer travel to Richmond to play EKU.

Silly, silly rule. So our oldest intrastate rivalry will die. I can’t believe that a little political clout couldn’t change some minds. The Eastern-Western game is worth saving.

The Thin Thirty

If I hadn’t lived through the University of Kentucky’s shameful Thin Thirty Days, I would swear that a new book, The Thin Thirty, is a work of fiction. But you couldn’t make up what a Louisville attorney, Shannon Ragland, has written about the shameful period when Charlie Bradshaw coached UK and so brutalized the UK football players that all but 30 quit the team.

Shortly after Bradshaw returned to Lexington to coach his alma mater, I had a conversation with him in front of the Wildcat Bowling Lanes next to Memorial Coliseum. He said that Dr. Ralph Angelucci, the team physician and a member of the UK trustees, told him that the first thing the coach had to do was run off the gays, including actor Rock Hudson, who were dating some of the football players.

You read that right.

Can’t win with mules

And Bradshaw went to work. He ran off the homosexuals. The party sites switched to Richmond and involved some of the Eastern players. Hudson helped one of the EKU players, Harvey Yeary, make it big in Hollywood with a new name: Lee Majors!

But Bradshaw also ran off most of his UK football players. All but 30 – thus The Thin Thirty.

I think it was a high school coach named Jim Pickens who told Bradshaw that he had run off the thoroughbreds and was left with mules – “and you can’t win on Saturdays with mules.” He also told him that Bradshaw shouldn’t even bother to recruit Bowling Green players because he had run off Dale Lindsey, probably the best player Bowling Green had ever produced. Lindsey finished at WKU and was a star linebacker in the NFL.

Bear Bryant Jr.

I walked with Bradshaw one day from the coliseum across the Avenue of Champions to Stoll Field. I told him I was worried about him and I thought what was wrong with him was that he was trying to be someone else – Bear Bryant Jr. He objected violently to that.

That first season I flew on the UK team plane to a game with the University of Detroit. I have never seen such a beaten-down group of individuals. Actually, there were only 29 on the trip. I was the last one on the plane and I couldn’t see an empty seat. But Junior Hawthorne, a big tackle, made his teammates squinch up in the back to make room for me.

Homer Rice, a friend who turned Fort Thomas Highlands into a football powerhouse, was a mild-mannered man who was a Bradshaw assistant. He called one day at The Courier-Journal. He said things were so bad that he had told Bradshaw that he would quit if the mistreatment of players didn’t stop.

Rice stayed.

Gambling on Xavier?

Earl Ruby, the legendary Courier-Journal sports editor, and I flew on the team plane to Knoxville for the season-ending Kentuckystar Tennessee game in 1962. UK won 12-10 and the Wildcats finished the season 3-5-2. Bradshaw lasted six more seasons before he was replaced by the luckless John Ray, who did make a major contribution to UK by being the catalyst for the building of Commonwealth Stadium.

In addition to the sex, Shannon Ragland discovered something I had never heard. He writes that some of the Wildcats tried to throw the Xavier game (the week before Tennessee). Xavier upset the Cats 14-9.

Ragland has done thorough research. I told him that his book could be a good textbook for use by colleges. It should be required for football players planning to be coaches.

Ragland played in two state tournaments as a member of the Eastern High team led by Felton Spencer. He is a graduate of WKU and also of UK’s law school.

His book is $18.95. It’s on sale now at Joseph Beth in Lexington, and will be available in Louisville later.

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