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Home run pitch: Calipari fouls it; Barnhart the Blessed gets pay hike

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By Bob Watkins

Mixing metaphors ... gopher balls, basketballs and money.
Best home run pitch question for a ball coach in February?

My vote goes to one from a reporter to John Calipari last week. “What do you think of the officiating in the SEC?”

Was this a Ralph Terry fast ball to Bill Mazeroski all over again?

A down the middle fluff pitch and never-at-a-loss-for-words Calipari fouled it off. Instead of hitting the gopher pitch out of the park with humor, with the SEC Tournament just ahead, Calipari opted for caution. He tossed a few greats, terrific(s), and wonderfuls and moved on.

What Kentucky’s coach could not say – officiating in the SEC has been as homey and inconsistent as ever with games decided at the end by bad calls and/or ... “if a defender doesn’t draw blood, it isn’t a foul. Gonna swallow my whistle, keep my evaluation ratings up, and ‘get me outa here, Percy!’

SEC crews are still subject to inconsistency, prima donna-ism, and calls swayed by frenzied home crowds. Meanwhile, trash talk is ignored and men in stripes look the other way when embolden coaches take their rant beyond the coach’s box.

Examples.
• Block or charge. Anyone recall last time a defender was given a technical foul for a theatric flop? Post WWII?
• Setting half-court offense out top, players routinely shuffle their feet before putting down a dribble. Officials ignore it.
• Games decided at the end. A missed call at the end let Tennessee beat Georgia in Athens. Lopsided, uneven work by officials at Oxford February 1, was critical to Ole Miss’s win over Kentucky.
• Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury’s animated displeasure at Rupp Arena before halftime February15 deserved a warning, not a technical foul.
• On any game night in Knoxville, Bruce Pearl’s dramatics incite Vol fans and make him a technical foul asking to happen.
• In Lexington, Calipari has staked out his own coach’s box – five feet up the sideline in front of the scorer’s table. And, in front of his bench, Kentucky’s coach spends more time on court than Stacy Poole.

When tournaments get underway wait for it – adjectives attached to game officials by television talking heads – bizarre, strange, odd, “... ohhh, he blew that one!” and “can you believe that call!?”

Just wondering: In a tall man’s game, we never see an official taller than 5-10. Curious.

BARNHART THE BLESSED

A contract extension and $125,000-a-year-raise for University of Kentucky director of athletics Mitch Barnhart. Just what a man making $475,000 a year needs, more money. A blessed life.

Says here, cost-cut crowing Governor Steve Beshear should veto Lee Todd’s unilateral gift to his AD. And, if the vote-conscious governor had real courage and vision to seize the moment, he would review options to dock UK president’s pay for his failure to consult his bosses first, the Board of Trustees.

Todd spun his Barnhart pay hike as a favor to the school’s next president. In fact, it was a power play by a lame duck CEO on his way back to private sector where he will spend his money instead of yours.

Not consulting his Board of Trustees may not violate rules technically, but Todd ignored chain-of-command protocols.
To call a press conference to announce Barnhart’s new deal reflects Todd’s thinking – when you’re leaving keep doing what you do, throw more money.

Barnhart the blessed.

America, I love this place!

NEWS AND VIEWS

NEWS. Louisville’s Kyle Kuric, then Preston Knowles, were mystified and Cardinal fans were furious when technical fouls were given to each in games earlier this month.

VIEW. Bravo for the officials. Kuric dunked then, however briefly, stood over his defender. Knowles exhorted Cardinal fans chanting a profanity at a referee.

College players are watching too many NBA games. Bad behavior penalized today can and will make a difference tomorrow in tournament play. To officials: More courage, please, and less show off.

NEWS. At Wisconsin, Ohio State’s winning streak ended at 24 straight.

VIEW. New win streak leader? Coastal Carolina ... almost. The Chanticleers, took a 24-2 record against Gardner Webb last week and lost, ending their streak at 24.

Kentucky connections? Coastal assistants Gus Hauser and Rich Riley hail from Corbin and London respectively. Hauser was once a graduate assistant to Rick Pitino at Louisville; Riley played for Travis Ford at Eastern Kentucky.

NEWS. NCAA basketball’s rebound king is Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried at 14.2. The preseason OVC Player of the Year is a game away from logging a record 20 double-doubles for a season.

VIEW. So, the big kid who returned for his senior year, every day is Valentine’s Day since, barring injury and an NBA lockout, Faried will be a millionaire by Fourth of July. America, I love this place!

NEWS. UK sophomore quarterback Ryan Mossakowski leaves Kentucky at end of spring semester.

VIEW. Student-athletes change colleges often, but a 6-4, 224-pound All-SEC academic (Math Education) leaving UK without being given a chance to take a single snap from center at Kentucky, is a blotch on what was a nightmare year for Joker Phillips.

When Phillips was assistant head coach, he ignored the depth chart’s No. 2 Will Fidler in favor of rookie Morgan Newton. Next, he recruited over Mossakowski, signing Maxwell Smith.

College student-athletes who don’t rise to expectations is part of life, but a young person not given opportunity for a chance to play, makes ball coach-speak all the more just another baloney sandwich.

Bad year for Joker Phillips? Fans paid more for tickets to see less; the Wildcats went to a bowl game they didn’t deserve, embarrassed themselves against Pitt; and the state produced seven premier prospects, none signed with the flagship university.

NBA & LOUISVILLE

Early February – Louisville attorney J. Bruce Miller told local media he sat down with NBA commissioner David Stern for a 90-minute session pitching the River City for franchise consideration.

A week latter $tern sat down with PBS’s Judy Woodruff who asked what cities were under consideration? $tern mentioned several future cities and none was Louisville. The commish is looking east to London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Budapest and Istanbul.

Pushing Louisville farther down the NBA franchise priority list (we hope) – the League may be more popular (and profitable) in China and the Pacific rim than Europe.

Meanwhile, J. Bruce Miller should be awarded a commendation medal for his relentless efforts spanning decades, trying to bring new industry to the Commonwealth.
And so it goes.

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