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In Louisville, Dallas and Baton Rouge What were these men thinking?

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By Bob Watkins

Louisville, Dallas and Baton Rouge ... incidents recently remind us that we can do better.

At Louisville’s PRP high school, if the allegation is proved, coach David Jason Stinson ordered sophomore Max Gilpin to run in 94-degree heat until somebody quit the team. Gilpin collapsed and three days later, died.

Why?

Indicted by a grand jury, Stinson will explain at trial what he was seeing  and thinking on a gruelling hot afternoon last August.

The indictment, the first of its kind, may shock coaches across Kentucky. If so, memories are short. In July 2006, 16-year-old Ryan Owens collapsed and died on a football field in Henderson. Practice in extreme heat was involved. Logic says the Owens’ tragedy would make coaches more mindful of what can happen.

Best and worst outcome of the Stinson case? Media trial coverage will move administrators and coaches to pay closer attention.

Whatever the trial’s outcome, a young man’s life is erased and other young wanna-be coach candidates may decide on other career paths which, in the end, short changes education of student-athletes.

IN DALLAS last week Covenant School girls basketball team defeated winless Dallas Academy 100-0. The score received network news attention and forced embarrassed Covenant officials to apologize and request the game be forfeited to Dallas Academy.

We wonder, as the score reached 20-0, 40-0, then 59-0 at halftime, and Covenant was still applying full-court pressure, what coach Micah Grimes was thinking? What was going through the mind of a teacher and coach at a Christian school as the score climbed? Certainly not humility and compassion of his employer’s mission statement. Covenant continued all-court pressure and fans cheered.

IN BATON ROUGE last October, days before Louisiana State played Florida in Gainesville, LSU defensive back Ricky Jean-Francois told reporters he intended to “rub (Tim) Tebow out of the game.”

Hurt Tebow. Physically knock him out of the game.

What was Jean-Francois thinking?

LSU coach Les Miles, perhaps for the player’s safety, left Jean-Francois off the travel team to Gainesville. Final score: Florida 51, LSU 21.

These incidents defy any reasonable level of common sense. What were these men thinking?

Today, Stinson faces reckless homicide charges and is being sued by Gilpin’s parents.

Covenant’s Micah Grimes was fired Sunday, hides from the media and refused to apologize.

Relevance of these incidents to sports across Kentucky? Competing is a joy. Winning is a reward. And the aftermath should be “who do we play next?” What happened in Louisville, Dallas and Baton Rouge are stark reminders how sports can be made ugly, pointless and sad.

We know football practice must be rigorous and tough to be instructive and educational. Life is. But pushing limits even near placing a child’s well-being at risk returns us to the original question: What were the coaches thinking?

ELSEWHERE

• Kentucky’s 23rd Mr. Football, Deuce Finch will be second in a row to leave the state to play.

A solid tailback prospect gone, at a time when Kentucky needs help and Western is  building its D-I program. Finch was comfortable at Boston College, mentioned academics then football and will sign with BC next month. Good for him. And, good for Jordan Whiting realizing a dream, playing at Ohio State.

Not so good for the Commonwealth where the number of D-I prospects surface each year is so modest, UK, UofL, Western, Eastern and others can ill afford to lose even a handful of prospects to rivals outside the state.

• Good News Dept. A Heisman Trophy winner list tells us college football programs with BCS aspirations begins with a quarterback. Western Kentucky can take a significant step forward in D-I competition when Courtney Dalcourt signs with the Hilltoppers Feb. 4. The 5-11, 196-pound quarterback at nearby Franklin-Simpson was courted by Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and sundry others as a defensive back.

Dalcourt’s commitment to Western is instant add-on to Coach Dave Elson’s pitch to other prospects.

• Sweet Win Dept. South Carolina clipped Florida last week pushing coach Darren Horn’s record in Columbia to 13-4. Of course Kentucky native Horn is doing it with Dave Odom’s players, right?

• 3rd Scorer Dept. Kentucky is unbeaten in SEC play including three road wins. Success because the committee led by Perry Stevenson has reduced to a whisper the expert view that UK needs a third scorer behind Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson.

Next?

READERS (RIGHT) WRITE

About a column item on January 7 ...

Larry in Benton, “When you mentioned a two-part ESPN series about Wooden, Rupp, Iba, Knight and Summitt, were you referring to an upcoming project you had heard about, or was it strictly a fantasy of what a great program it would be?”

COMMENT: Alas, a fantasy. But still an opportunity for ESPN.

WORTH REPEATING

Four year starter and leading scorer for Corbin High’s top 10 ranked basketball Redhounds, senior Josh Crawford missed much of last season because of a knee injury that may have cooled interest from major college recruiters.

“... after my surgery I kind of realized basketball is not always going to be there,” Crawford told told Jim McAlister of The News-Journal, “I think that was a blessing from God. I am focused now on getting a good education and I’ve got some really good quality academic schools looking at me. I just want to use basketball to get my education.”

And so it goes.

You can contact bob Watkins at SprtsinKy@aol.com