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Autumn: 10 reasons it’s best season

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By Bob Watkins

Reasons why we’ve arrived at best time of the year in the Bluegrass State.

1. Big Triple comes in October.

Fall racing at Keeneland begins the 9th; Big Blue Madness at Rupp Arena, the 16th. And, a day later Rich Brooks’ team plays what could be a season-maker at Auburn.

2. Next week at historic Churchill Downs, filming starts on a motion picture about Secretariat.

3. Hot seat. What college season would be complete without a coach on one? Steve Kragthorpe at Louisville is the man. Is Western’s David Elson next?

4. Technicolor. Kentucky autumn is ... duPont Manual crimson, Louisville Trinity and St. X green; Highlands blue birds, Madisonville maroon, Corbin redhound,  Paducah blue tornado and Bowling Green purple.

5. Football Saturday as it was intended to be – in Georgetown. Oct. 17 University of Cumberlands at Georgetown College. No teevee.

6. Rick Pitino out of the headlines. Well, maybe.

7. Afternoon in Williamsburg. University of Cumberlands homecoming and Battle for Brass Lantern against Union, Oct. 10.

8. Football is king in Kentucky when ... the 100 experts for The Sporting News choosing Peyton Manning as the NFL’s number one includes seven selectors with Kentucky ties - Jeff Van Note, Leeman Bennett, Otis Wilson, Joe Jacoby, Paul Hornung, Chris Collinsworth and Dermontti Dawson.

9. When The Frost Is On the Punkin ... by James Whitcomb Riley.

10. And, Governor’s Cup.

Pomp, pageantry and pumped up interest enough to move ESPNU to share its pie with independent cable marketers. Unbeaten Louisville versus unbeaten Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium.

Except, first Saturday in May, this is good as it gets.

Prediction: UK 45, UofL 20.

SPLASH AND MR. FOOTBALL

A telephone call from a high school coach a few years ago, came to mind last week.

“I’ve got a special kid who has talent to be candidate for Mr. Basketball,” he said. “What can I do to get his name out there?”

Tricky business, getting out there. For Mr. Football candidacy, here’s how it works.

First, a high school coach may be first to recognize a gifted player, but often discretion dictates he be last to say so.

Reasons ...

1. Can affect a youngster’s hat size in Me-Era (see Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and parents).

2. Makes a kid a target. (see Channing Fugate, Breathitt Co.)

3. Singling out a player can be team disruptive. At its core, coaching mantra is t-e-a-m, no matter how exceptional a player is.

4. Bias. Every coach of every good team believes he has a great player or two. To wit: When a coach opens his mouth to a reporter and the word grrrrreat comes out after “my kid is ...,” it triggers skepticism. Ego kicks in too. Media people listen to how great Johnny is, but many are thinking, (in words of Bush 43), “I am the decider!”

5. Electors for Mr. Football are sports writers affiliated with The Associated Press. As a season unfolds, the media process, and not necessarily pass and rush numbers, rules, distill perception into reality.

Key to candidacy? No suprise, it’s getting attention early. A splash can make all the difference.

Example: Two names made prominent in preseason - Austin Collinsworth at Ft. Thomas Highlands and Miles Simpson at Simon are on Rich Brooks’ recruiting list . Two Fridays ago the UK coach dropped in to watch them play. By helicopter.

His arrival got the attention of fans, Collinsworth, Simpson and the media. The novelty of Brooks transportation made a splash in the Lexington media last Friday and again Sunday.

Good for Collinsworth and Simpson and northern Kentucky football. Good for UK and Brooks too.

One night later, down I-75, the Cumberland Falls Pigskin Classic matched two long-time rivals, Corbin and Danville. Corbin won 31-14. Senior running back Caleb Watkins had 224 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns, the Lexington newspaper said. Not splash-worthy.

In fact it was. The kid rushed 18 times for more yards than Danville’s total (220); made touchdown runs of Calvin Bird-like 80, 51 and 49 yards; Intercepted a pass, had a quarterback sack and recovered an onside kick.

MVP at Pigskin Classic? Yes.

Beyond Corbin, who knew?

Corbin is unbeaten but not ranked in a top 25. Watkins was not mentioned on a preseason list of the state’s top 25 High School senior players. No splash.

Logic tells us, as with Corey Robinson at Lone Oak in 2007 and Travis Atwell at Hancock County in 1999 (Mr. Football winners), only a Corbin advance deep into the playoffs or 2-A State finals berth will catapult its top scorer to discovery.

The standard path, perception to reality.

But, as Collinsworth and Simpson discovered, there can be discovery also with a splash factor.

Maybe another Rich Brooks helicopter trip.

CALIPARI DONATION

John Calipari will donate “a portion” of proceeds from his new book to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, University of Kentucky-at-Euclid reported last week. Nice.

Perhaps the next press release will list the amount donated. We might watch  for a new pin on Calipari’s lapel.

According to Memorial and Museum web site ...

√ $1,000 (donation earns) one granite paver that will create elegant walkways leading to the Memorial.

√ $500 merits a cobblestone to be placed on the Memorial Glade, a small clearing in a grove of trees for gatherings and ceremonies.

√ $100 gets a cobblestone placed on the paths of the Memorial Plaza, a beautifully landscaped space surrounding the Memorial.

√ $50 gets an official National Sept. 11 Memorial lapel pin.

Donations are tax deductible.

COMMENT. We look forward to a UK press release when Kentucky’s coach ‘donates’ a check to the University of Memphis general fund if the school’s appeal is denied and UM is forced to pay back $615,000 lost on Calipari’s watch.

And so it goes.

Sports In Kentucky appears in community newspapers across the Commonwealth. You can reach bob Watkins atsprtsinky@aol.com