I learned years ago that many times there is no answer for how or why things happen in sports competition. No rhyme, reason or excuse, they just happen. Unfortunately, some of those scenarios have surfaced occasionally over the years for us sports fans here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and more importantly in the annals of UK athletics.
I never even imagined 30 years ago that I’d see MLB turn on Pete Rose for eternity after all the league has overlooked and turned a blind eye to. Never thought I’d see Appalachian State beat Michigan in the Big House. Absolutely never thought I’d witness with my own eyes Gardner Webb beat the eight-time NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena.
But as they say, if you live long enough you’ll see it all, so I’m hoping I can live long enough to witness a few more head scratchers in the world of sports that we all so dearly love.
Now we are once again at another crossroads with the embattled Kentucky football program and its present state.
Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips and his terribly young football team gave a gallant come-from-behind effort in the fourth quarter Saturday night in front of 53,000 plus die hard blue bloods against cross state rival Western Ky. University. The Cats came up short after one overtime period of play, losing 32-31 on a Boise State type trick play when WKU coach Willie Taggart rolled the dice and went for the dramatic two-point conversion for all the marbles or go home a loser.
At the approximate time of around 10:05 p.m. Saturday night, that old sometimes forgotten about dark cloud that has hovered over Cooper Drive for many of the last 50 plus years appeared again and swallowed the C. M. Newton Field with gloom and doom, basically ending the Joker Phillips era of UK football.
Now all that remains is when Mitch Barnhart will be faced with pulling the trigger on Phillips’ contract. Simply put, unless Mitch Barnhart has the patience of a vulture (and they’re swarming like crazy all across the Commonwealth), I just can’t see Joker and his staff surviving this.
To be perfectly honest, WKU football and Sun Belt Conference football is better than it was 10 years ago, much better, but the conference’s past poor image still remains in the eyes of many college football fans and some media types. At the end of the day, the fans buy the tickets and the media pretty much sets the tone for these scenarios, and neither one of those groups have been very kind to Joker Phillips the last two years. This week it will get progressively worse for Phillips and UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart.
Bottom line is that an SEC school just can’t lose to an in-state rival that is a so-called mid major school in football and recover like in basketball.
This question begs to be asked: Why, and more importantly how, did this happen?
Answer: Maxwell Smith spent the first half trying to locate blue jerseys to throw to, and in the meantime hit three white jerseys square between the numbers, leading to the 17-0 hole that was dug by UK. Then UK stubbornly kept trying far too often to run between the tackles at least two to four plays per possession, which by the end of the game produced all of 41 yards rushing on the ground.
To make matters worse for Phillips and his terribly humble and severely wounded Cats, they will now turn to SEC play and hit the road with the first stop in Gainesville, Florida at the Swamp, a place where UK has suffered some of its most demoralizing defeats in its history of SEC play.
Hopefully, Maxwell Smith will throw to his teammates this week and the Gators’ bellies and chests will still be swelled from the past two weekends of thumping the Aggies and Vols on the road, and what little preparation that takes place this week will be geared toward the Gators’ opponent week after next when the Gators entertain No. 2 LSU.
Even with all the above stated, I keep telling myself Kentucky football has always fallen in the category of never as bad as it appears, but never going to be what many wants or believes it can be. It always surfaces somewhere in between.
Now the present problem is speed kills, and Florida has plenty of it. If Phillips players’ quit on him this Saturday and the Gators throw one of those 50-point losses at UK, it may be the proverbial final nail in the coffin for Phillips and force Barnhart to pull the trigger earlier than he wants to. Five home games still remain to be played on the Cats’ gridiron schedule, and you can’t piggy back but two of them with Keeneland, which has been so popular with Big Blue Nation over the years.
But then again there is always exceptions to all predicaments and problems in life, you just simply never really know how things will play out but to me that’s the beauty of any level of sports especially Kentucky football.
This may be the time where we all need to count our blessings in life instead of what we think are problems, but are really silly concerns at best.
Coach Cal’s basketball clinics set for next month
Two of Coach Cal’s more popular events with the ladies and high school coaches of the Commonwealth are coming up next month in October , here is the info on both :
UK Women’s Clinic
This clinic is open to any adult female (sorry no middle school or high school age females or junior college or prep school can attend due to NCAA rules), and it will be held Oct. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Joe Craft Center on the campus at UK. The clinic fee is $100 and registration is encouraged to be completed as soon as possible and not wait until the day of the clinic. Attendees will receive a UK t-shirt as well as be provided with a hospitality room for refreshments during the three-hour clinic.
Registration can be done online at www.ukathletics.com/camps. The 2011 women’s clinic was sold out several days prior to the clinic.
Coach Cal and his coaching staff as well as the UK players will be in attendance and assisting Coach Cal during the three-hour clinic.
Any UK women’s clinic related questions or concerns should be directed to the staff at the UK men’s basketball office and those two numbers are 859-257-1916 or 859-257-9457.
Check in for the women’s clinic on Oct. 3rd is from 4:30 to 6:00 .
UK High School & Middle School Coaches Clinic
This clinic is designed for both high school and middle school boys and girls basketball coaches to help them better understand how to teach the fundamentals of basketball and better their respective players’ careers at a young age.
There will be on-court demonstration of various fundamental drills as well as coaching segments for Coach Cal to teach and demonstrate how to implement the drills into a middle or high school age practice routine. Clinic participants will be able to witness firsthand how Coach Cal conducts a UK practice and each participant will be lead by UK staff members on a tour of the Joe Craft Center as well as the new Wildcat Coal Lodge.
No middle school age, high school age, prep school or junior college players are permitted to attend this clinic per NCAA rules.
Advanced registration is $75 and can be done online at www.ukathletics.com/camps or you can call 859-257-1916 or 859-257-9457 if you wait until the morning of the clinic it will be $100.
Check in for the middle school and high school coaching clinic on Oct. 27 is from 7:30 to 9 a.m. in the lobby of the Joe Craft Center.
Big Blue Madness ticket draw this week
Get out the pup tents, sleeping bags and coolers because it’s time to camp out in front, beside, behind and all around the real house that Rupp built, that old ancient but very historic Memorial Coliseum on the Avenue of Champions. Yes, once again the calendar has arrived at the date set for distribution of Big Blue Madness tickets, the event formerly known as Midnight Madness.
Beginning at approximately 7 a.m. this Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, fans can start forming the line for the actual ticket distribution which won’t begin until 7 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at the front ticket window of the Coliseum.
The doors to Rupp Arena on the evening of Big Blue Madness will open at 6 p.m. Plans for TV coverage have yet to be announced by UKAA officials, but in most all of the past years there has been some type of live TV coverage statewide. Go online to www.ukathletics.comoccasionally in the next few weeks or check your local TV listings for this year’s announcement on TV coverage.