High five

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By Bob Watkins

In a time of Tea Party fever, one-and-dones, Derby handicapping experts and more show-me-the-money, Sport stepped into the breech last week. Gave us a high-five (and half) heart string highlights.

1. No. 42. Across Major League Baseball every player on every team wore No. 42, honoring Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.

2. Lefty. At the Masters, champion Phil Mickelson and wife Amy touched our hearts with a nationally televised hug taking attention away from media’s latest kick-that-dog-again!, Tiger Woods.

3. Gotta Move On. DeMarcus Cousins reminded us of a Tom Petty tune, Time to Move On, by acknowledging Big Blue Nation, but the lottery is the lottery. Big Cuz is headed to the No Whine Zone to make a living. Ron Artest and other bully-boys await.

4. Gotta Move In. 4-star-rated shooting guard Doron Lamb chose Kentucky (in part) because, he said, he’s interested in getting a college education.

5. Brandon Knight. We learned the kid from Florida is an honor student who might be more interested in being a college kid than next one-and-done.

Half (.5). John Calipari stopped in Louisville for a Boys Scout Luncheon and claimed he does not recruit only one-and-dones. Cal focused on Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and Cousins using a Who Knew argument. Who knew Bledsoe, Orton and Cousins would blossom so soon?

Was weak spin. What we do know is 18-19-year-olds are kids between the ears not ready for riches and groupies, even if a coach says their bodies are ready for Ron Artest and the rest.

Never mind. We can be certain Calipari inspired his Boy Scouts audience with, “hey, kids, remember, work hard, stay in school!”



Julian Tackett’s 26 years on the job training paid off last week. The 49-year-old becomes the state’s seventh KHSAA commissioner this summer.

Man who devotes himself to one organization and is around for quarter-century-plus, has earned his shot.

Recognized as a communicator and KHSAA voice to media already, Tackett has been a front fox hole man and knows complexities of prickly issues – public-versus-private schools competition, to recruiting, to district re-alignments and Title IX . Best among his acceptance remarks:

1. “We’re not going to be afraid to try something new.”

2. “In the past we’ve sometimes relied on waiting until something became an issue to deal with it. We’ve got to get out there first and make sure people understand on what we intend on doing...”

3. “I will be my own man.”

A ringing endorsement for Tackett came from Ken Cox, long-time athletics administrator in Fayette and now Jessamine County, who served two terms on the board of control.

“Julian’s an excellent choice. On the board of control I appreciated his insights and how he presented issues for board consideration.”

Cox and Tackett officiated KIAC, Mid-South and Great Lakes Valley basketball games together. “When you ride to and from games with a fellow you learn his priorities and Julian’s have always been a positive voice for student-athletes.  He’s in a position now to showcase his leadership.”


The University of Kentucky Athletics Association Board put a squeeze on its golden-goose again last week, rubber stamping a ticket price hike proposal for football games. Single game prices increase $6, and the season-ticket package goes up $37 this year.

K-Fund contribution requirements – ‘eligibility’ to buy priority seats, (political correctness for legalized extortion), could add $3 million to UK coffers a year. The extra money well help stem tide of tuition hikes, right? Improve campus facilities? Or, create pay increases for faculty and staff, right?

Wrong. K-Fund monies belong to University of Kentucky-at-Euclid and go toward funding a new downtown basketball arena, Commonwealth Stadium upgrades. and a new baseball park.


University of Kentucky has raised tickets prices to football games ...

B in Lexington: “Let’s see. Economy is still pitiful. Kentucky has it highest unemployment in history. But, Lee Todd, Mitch Barnhart and UK powers-that-be have raised tuition prices and football ticket prices. Basketball ticket prices will probably be raised by July 1, in time for the next in-coming one-and dones.


$EC administrators sent Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury a message last week – send money! $30,000.

State’s coach blew a gasket following the SEC Tournament, criticizing game officials after Kentucky’s come-back overtime win over the Bulldogs. Two weeks earlier State blew a lead and lost to UK in overtime in Starkville. And yes, Kentucky got friendly calls or no calls in each.

Operative word here is lost, and, based on SEC rules on not berating officials, Stansbury earned his fine. However, in both UK games Mississippi State had lead enough at the end to prevent a referee’s whilstle, swallowed or not, from deciding the outcome. Bulldogs played into range for officials call or not call, and lost.


Western Kentucky football coach Willie Taggart posed a get real message to his players and all scholarship student-athletes last week. “We’re given everything and didn’t have to work for anything,” the Hilltoppers coach told the Courier-Journal. “We owe this university a lot more than that. The university does so much for us. The least we can do is give it our all every day.”

Coaches too.


Baseball is back and fans who cheer for clubs beneath big money favorites Yankees and Red Sox, must celebrate where we can. The Pittsburgh Pirates swept three from the Cincinnati Reds last weekend.

Now in second place in NL Central, the Pirates may not win another 3-game series, let along three in a row, before Congressional elections in 2012, but raking the Reds in a final at-bats twice was sweet indeed.

America, I love this place!

And so it goes.

Sports In Kentucky appears in community newspapers across Kentucky. You can reach bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com.