COLUMN: April pulls ‘double-double’ for Louisville

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By Bob Watkins

As NCAA officialdom was salivating over its 70,000 ticket sale sessions at the Georgia Dome rounding up another successful basketball tournament season last week, the University of Louisville was celebrating a more rare and delicious double-double-double of its own.
• Final Four pay-days for men’s and women’s programs.
• Extended PR sunshine, compliments of Kevin Ware’s leg cast and attitude; and Shony Shimmels’ Show and roots to the Rez.
Add in ...
• Naismith Hall of Fame election for Rick Pitino.
• Goldencents, a Kentucky Derby possible that won the Santa Anita Derby last weekend. Headlines call it Rick Pitino’s horse. But credit the majority owners celebrating that they let Rick Pitino buy in 5 percent’s worth.

• Keeneland opened Friday.
• Kentucky’s new beginning Blue-White football game is Saturday.
• Tuesday is NCAA deadline for applicants to withdraw from the NBA draft. Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin? Bye! No press conference on campus please.
• Next. Best recruiting class in basketball history. The possibility that Calipari’s new cast gets Fab ‘never won anything’ Five myth off ESPN air, will be welcome.
• Big buzz: Calipari’s roster; and how many days until Big Blue Madness? With or without Goodwin or Anthony Wiggins, and despite Louisville playing for the NCAA championship, one TV talking head’s analysis was neither outrageous or ill-timed. “Kentucky,” he said, “even though it didn’t even make the tournament this season, will open next season ranked No. 1 in the country.”
Evidence to support: 6-foot-9 Julius Randle may remind fans of Jamal Mashburn; 6-foot-10 Dakari Johnson runs the floor like, well, Willy Cauley-Stein; Aaron and Andrew Harrison are magic and the reason why Goodwin and Harrow are gone. Add returnees Kyle Wiltjer, Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress, and continue the countdown to Oct. 15.

• Hilltopper basketball fans are in full anticipation mode awaiting Ray Harper’s next full roster as WKU prepares for a fan-friendly adventure in C-USA.
• Football. Camp Bob Petrino report is the Hilltoppers have never experienced a “hurry up and no time for nonsense” pace put in place by the fellow whose been there, done that at D-I and the NFL.

While Rick Pitino almost outsmarted himself against Wichita State, and Luke Hancock, in spite of Russ Smith, saved the Cardinals’ bacon, back in Louisville, it was cha-ching business as usual. Cashing-in on sophomore Kevin Ware’s celebrity was, with or without director of athletics Tom Jurich’s OK, shameful.
Ware’s 15 (minimum) minutes of fame was made into a hot-hot item at the campus bookstore. Leg-in-cast image and jersey number ironed onto T-shirts, $25 a pop. Cha-ching!
Just good capitalism, right? Right.
Except Kevin Ware receives zero compensation. Louisville’s director of athletics should get at least a phone call from NCAA police for allowing or plead ing no responsibility for campus bookstore owners profiting on Ware windfall (no pun intended).
Fall out? Ware’s travel-and-TV-show schedule was a feel-good story, but the T-shirt episode makes him the latest puppet and poster boy for screamers about exploitation of college athletes.
Meanwhile, so-called main stream media’s lasting fascination with “total” package monies cashed in by NCAA and ball coaches while student-athletes get (only) a scholarship, I wonder, where’s the watchdog reporting on destinations of profits? If Rick Pitino’s pay is any of our business, shouldn’t what he spends it on be newsworthy, too?
Why this is important: Universities pay ball coaches and administrators astronomically well (Tom Jurich earns $1.4 million a year, according to USA Today), invest lavishly in athletics and marketing, then have the audacity to charge fans a privilege-fee to buy tickets, along with increasing ticket prices to games. Across the street, another tuition hike for families increasingly less able to send children to college. Being squeezed out leaves higher education to a privileged class.
End of story? No. While million-dollar men Pitino and Walz in Louisville, Matthew Mitchell and John Calipari in Lexington will receive bonuses and contract extensions, none will have to answer news-conference style for graduation rates.
Meanwhile, officials at both (most) universities continue to exhort alumni and friends to “support your university. Send money.”

Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight was in the news again last week. Curious how critics are ever anxious to assign The General to history’s scrap-heap, but are equally anxious to resurrect him when a chair is tossed or a Mike Rice-Rutgers video becomes a top story on Sportscenter.
When the Rice assault video surfaced, Knight was asked to comment, but declined (wouldn’t you?), whereupon he was barbequed (again). Predictably, the Rice video sent columnists across the land into spasms of outrage instead of investigating if the Rutgers episode is one of a kind.
To me, criticism of Bob Knight for his demons, bad decisions at times and overheated passion to win, brings the awful necessity to look into a mirror. How many of our lives are void of Bob Knight bad moments and regrettables?
To hate on Bob Knight is folly. For me, he is a reminder to have the good sense to look in a mirror now and then. And a reminder ...
1 My own glass house.
2. “We have met the enemy and he is us!” said cartoonist Walt Kelly through his classic “Pogo” comic strip in 1952.

Sign of the Apocalypse? Headline from The Huffington Post last week: “Dick Vitale, The Worldwide Leader In Enthusiasm, Finally Reaches The Final Four.” And so it goes.