By: Ira D. CombsTri State Sports Media
October 15, 2012
I thought Big Blue Nation and its hard luck football team and 2012 season couldn’t get any worse.
I thought the 2012 UK football schedule had taken a dip downward in the talent department due to the Cats’ latest opponent being 2-4 and having lost three of those four games by a total score of 145-36.
I assumed Joker and his youthful fee lines would at least be relatively competitive for the majority of a 60-minute college football game the rest of the season.
Unfortunately, what we all witnessed Saturday night in Fayetteville, Arkansas will in all likelihood be the after effect of what an atom bomb would look like if dropped in the middle of the Nutter Training Center on Kentucky football.
This defeat in my eyes due to its embarrassing and humiliating ramifications may have set the revival of UK football (if there will ever be one now) back six to eight years, even if this staff is let go at season’s end and a new coach and staff is brought on board, no matter how sexy the hire is.
What coach in their right mind with any kind of name recognition would stake a career move on this program as it presently stands and playing in the conference it resides?
With 5:08 remaining in the game and Arkansas leading 49-7, the SEC officials in charge of Saturday night’s UK vs. Arkansas game consulted each school’s athletic director and Commissioner Slive. After the three parties conferred for a short period of time, it was agreed upon by all it would be best to cease play .
Officially on the NCAA and SEC record books it will be listed as a game suspended due to weather related conditions. Unofficially, and to be painfully honest, it had all the feelings of a KHSAA mercy rule game.
To rehash any stats or scoring sequence of the game would be a moot point and a waste of space in this column, so I’ll move on to more positive news for everybody’s mental and emotional state of mind concerning UK athletics.
However, in closing I will emphatically make one final remark concerning UK football.
It’s time Mitch Barnhart at least publicly addressed the UK football situation with an emphasis on its immediate future, long range future, and its leadership. He owes the paying fan base that much.
Cal’s boys take ESPN spotlight this week
Mark these three October dates and times down on your must-see TV calendar on ESPN programming: Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.; Oct. 24 at 7 p.m.; and Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. It will be a real treat to BBN and any college hoops fan, well maybe the folks in Chapel Hill and Durham North Carolina may not see it as a treat and I doubt any Card fans from the Ville’ will either, but I’m sure many folks in those areas will take a peek if just to see what they’re competing against.
These are the three dates and times that ESPN will feature a program called ESPN All Access Kentucky Wildcats Basketball, where they will showcase the 2012-13 preseason of UK basketball and how its players, coaching staff, and Coach Cal himself conduct their daily activities from sun up to sun down. The show will go behind the scenes of UK basketball off the court and document various angles of this program, and why it is so special and considered by many to be the elite men’s basketball program of the NCAA Div. 1 A level in the present day setting.
There have been short segments already shot at the new Wildcat Coal Lodge, Coach Cal’s home, Joe Craft Center, and at the local watering hole on the backside of the UK campus, Wheeler’s Pharmacy, where many old time UK supporters and deep-pocketed money donors chew the fat on UK hoops. Coach Cal is the only acting UK head coach to my knowledge to have been granted a full membership card while on the job to this establishment (sarcasm definitely intended here). Former UK Hall of Fame coach Joe B. Hall is also a card carrying life time member of this club/establishment, but according to other members it was a membership granted only after many long and difficult pledge sessions.
There will also be several different appearances by Coach Cal and a few of the players of some ESPN videotaping sessions on other ESPN programming shows during the last two weeks of October, including several spots on ESPN’s very popular nightly Sportscenter show. Of course, Big Blue Madness will have a cameo appearance and rumor has it UK officials are pushing for a sellout at the Oct. 24h Blue-White scrimmage in Rupp Arena. Tickets are $10 each and can be obtained at Rupp Arena or UK ticket office.
UK officials hope to set a record of some type on money raised for charity by using a simple UK basketball scrimmage as its focus and vocal point.
Is the SEC headed into unchartered and dangerous waters?
Maybe it’s too early, but you have to wonder if this new SEC realignment may be on the verge of backfiring on the conference in the all-important revenue department and bowl eligibility.
The ramifications of playing eight conference games for several members of the present conference membership may be a little bit too much to keep the fan interest at a level to purchase those lucrative season tickets, especially with the new TV contracts to fall back on into their rocker recliners. Is it possible the SEC leadership brethren has lost all reality of how the entertainment dollar is spreading so thin around the middle class, blue collar states like Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi? There are seven SEC schools in these five states and history shows none of the seven have been considered consistent winners for more than two, three, or four year cycles at a time.
Those astute SEC athletic directors may have finally priced their showcase sport out of the market of their own people, unless they soften the challenge for their football challenged member schools. I suggest they consider a seven game SEC schedule pulled from four divisions with a combination of two rotating opponents from two of the other divisions each season.
There is enough annual flexibility to keep long time rivalries (who want to keep playing) continuing on an annual basis.
At the end of the day all of those who think this will happen raise your hand. Yep, that’s what I thought. Nobody wants to help the little guy. He can sink or swim on his own, but those who sink will go down with a few more coins, which is what it’s all about.
Super 6 SEC tidbits as we enter second half of gridiron season
1 - You think 0-4 Missouri has had enough of what it called Old Man Football since one of their starting DT made that statement on the eve of its initial SEC game back in September?
2 - On ESPN’s late night review of Saturday’s games, Lee Fowler asked Lou Holtz and Mark May to list their top three disappointments of this season to date. Holtz picked UK as number one.
3 - Saturday’s 1st half performance of UK vs. Arkansas reminded me so much of those Steve Spurrier vs. Bill Curry games of the early 90’s — ugly and tremendously embarrassing.
4 - When is the SEC going to announce the new out of division scheduling rotation for football? It makes you wonder if a new power struggle is in the ultimate fighting stage.
5 - Poor Vandy. Another swing and miss at a major upset. The latest against Florida, but the final score didn’t come close to giving an actual account of the game. Sound familiar?
6 - There is a distinct possibility that six SEC football coaches may be leaving or getting booted from their present job address before or at the end of the 2012 season. Those possibly being booted out for lack of production and not particularly in this order are: Joker Phillips - UK, Derek Dooley - UT, Gene Chizik - Auburn, and John L. Smith – Arkansas. Those possibly reaping the dividends of recent success at challenging schools, especially in football are James Franklin - Vanderbilt and Dan Mullen - Mississippi State. Mullen may be the best kept secret in the college coaching fraternity, but it’s easy to hide when you reside in Starkville, Mississippi, even if it is the heart of the south. The Bulldogs’ athletic budget has long been at the bottom or next to the bottom of the SEC and by a sizable margin, yet they’ve had more success in recent years in the three major sports than many of their brothers in the SEC by spending far less.