There are several topics I'd like to touch on today since I've been essentially AWOL for the better part of two weeks. Let's lead off with ...
The end (for now) of the Kentucky vs. Indiana basketball series -- I don't like it.
Kentucky/Indiana is, and has been since 1969, a game to be circled on the UK basketball schedule. From Bob Knight's childish slap upside the back of Joe B. Hall's head in 1974, to the 'Cats victory over the Hoosiers in the 1975 national quarterfinal (IU's only loss in the 1975-'76 seasons), to Kentucky's 1985 Rupp Arena win over Steve Alford-less Indiana -- a game in which Knight and UK coach Eddie Sutton exchanged heated post-game "pleasantries" in the bowels of Rupp -- to Mike Davis losing his mind at the end of the Wildcats' win over IU in 2002 at Freedom Hall, to the 2012 season's college basketball game of the year, the series is filled with great characters, great memories, and great Kentucky wins over Indiana, along with a few Big Blue Nation heart breakers.
It seems to me to be unconscionable that the two coaches, who are friendly rivals, could not come to an agreement over the series venues. While I understand both coaches point of view -- Cal wants neutral sites, while Crean counters with a home-and-home preference -- the real reason the series is coming to an end (for now), is being kept within the confines of each coach's mind. In other words, I'm not buying the reasons for the series' termination (for now) given by the two coaches.
I'm also not buying IU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Fred Glass, when he says one of the reasons IU is balking at playing the titanic tilt at neutral sites is because Indiana's students and season ticket holders would be left out in the cold, unable to gain entry into the contest. Give me a big .. fat ... break ... Ed. How difficult would it be to simply add the contest to the student/season ticket holder's ticket package? Depending on the host, the potential game venues are either an hour (Indianapolis), or a couple of hours away (Louisville), with either 10,000 or 30,000 - 35,000 Hoosier tickets available.
Obviously, neither every IU student, nor season-ticket holder would be able to attend the game when it's played at (presumably) Freedom Hall, so the Hoosier powers-that-be could simply rotate game availability among their faithful.
Isn't that a microscopic price to pay to continue one of the great all-time college basketball rivalries?
As far as Cal's statement found at CoachCal.com (Glenn's thoughts on the article can be found here) in which he proclaims UK a now "non-traditional" basketball program, I am withholding commentary except for the above, until the 2012-2013 schedule is released.
With Anthony Bennett's decision to cut Kentucky from his list of potential destinations, and as jc eluded to here, adding another Wildcat to the current roster is beginning to look like a fading hope. Amile Jefferson, a 6-foot-9 forward, is still a possibility, but unless Cal puts on his full court recruiting press, Jefferson is unlikely to announce for UK.
If Jefferson opts to take his considerable skill set elsewhere, this is how UK's roster will look next season: Kyle Wiltjer (6-9 swing who could also play a stretch four), Jon Hood (6-7 swing returns from a torn ACL), Ryan Harrow (6-2 point guard transfer from NC State gains eligibility), Twany Beckham (6-5 combo), Jarrod Polson (6-2 guard), Alex Poythress (6-8 forward), Archie Goodwin (6-4 shooting guard), Willie Cauley (7-0 center), and Nerlens Noel (6-10 center/forward).
With four maybe five future NBA players on the roster, this group is not to be sneezed at.
John L. Smith signing a contract to lead the Arkansas football program for 10 months has to lead, by a wide margin, for the most puzzling move of this college football off-season.
I do believe Smith, the 63-year old former UofL and Michigan State head coach who served as Bobby Petrino's special team's coach at Arkansas from 2009-2011, will enjoy success with a strong returning group of Razorbacks in 2012, but he faces a MOUNTAINOUS challenge on the recruiting trail. But, averse to mountain climbing, Smith is not.
What will it take for Joker Phillips to keep his J.O.B. -- There are several factors to be considered when evaluating Joker's job performance after the 2012 season is over, beginning with; Did Kentucky beat Louisville?; 2) Did Kentucky win at least three SEC games?; 3) Was Kentucky bowl eligible?; 4) Did the Commonwealth Stadium attendance average top 55,000?; 5) Was the product on the field competitive with its SEC foes; and 6) Did Kentucky beat Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, or Tennessee?
Joker has to be able to answer in the affirmative to at least four of those questions to remain in charge of the Wildcat football program, in my estimation (although UK AD Mitch Barnhart is nothing if not patient).
Of particular interest in respect to Joker's job security are the Commonwealth Stadium attendance figures: Since Commonwealth was expanded for the 1999 season to hold 67,942 fans, only twice have the 'Cats failed to average at least 62,000 fans per game; in 2006 (57,330), a year the team oddly enough won six and lost only one contest at home, and last season, when UK averaged 58,647, topping the 60,000 attendance mark only once all year (when 65,134 witnessed the 'Cats lose to Florida). Even UK's final home game, a streak-wrecking victory over Derek Dooley (couldn't happen to a nicer guy) and Tennessee was witnessed by only 59,855 fans.
With discontent bountiful among the UK football faithful, a dramatic drop in fannies in the home field seats (meaning lost revenue), coupled with a losing or break-even season, could portend the end of the Joker Phillips era at Kentucky.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!