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Western Ky gets bitter intro into D-I

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By Bob Watkins

Did any team north of Lane Kiffin in Knoxville and south of Bill Lynch in Bloomington have a nightmare season to compare with Western Kentucky and Louisville?

If football ‘09 in Bowling Green and Louisville had a color it would be blue. Fan blue(s), coach firing blue, bone bruise blue.

At Western Kentucky. Imagine your beer-holding hand chained to railroad tracks and a freight train runs it over, then backs up, does it again, 68, 63 and 62 times.

With a measure of gallantry, Dave Elson and staff marched the Hilltoppers into the new world of D-I. But, that Elson was surprised to be fired is the surprise. An 18-game losing streak is one thing, coughing up 62 points to Sun Belt rival Middle Tennessee and 68 at North Texas a week later, and going oh-for home dates, simply isn’t moving the chains.

D-I bottom line is hard ball. Elson pioneered the way, but now is time for a name coach who can recruit SEC-level talent, be evangelist for tickets sales and sign a contract he will probably jump when grass is greener elsewhere.

Distasteful part of Western’s train wreck? Director of athletics Wood Selig is a villain, not for sending Elson packing, but for the four-year contract extension he gave his coach 11 months ago then violated it. Welcome to D-I hard ball.

Future for Western: Recast the 2010 schedule, hire a coach not interested in WKU as stepping stone, ramp up the recruiting pitch and send for the JUCOs.

At Louisville. Despite dramatic win over Syracuse symbols of a season are: 1. Lots of empty seats. 2. Coach Steve Kragthorpe on the sidelines, collar pulled up, hat pulled down, face hunkered into a laminated play card. 3. Trent Guy’s thrilling 95-yard punt return touchdown last Saturday called back.

Still, Cardinals have a chance to salvage a season with two dates left.

Future for Louisville: Ain’t over til it’s over, but looks to be.

UK’s PATTERSON, COBB

Patrick Patterson and Randall Cobb are stars on University of Kentucky celebrity marquee. Twins of big heart, big toughness and bigger team-ness. Good reasons all, why Big Blue Nation falls in love, follows faithfully and fills seats.

Only thing better than Patterson and Cobb on consecutive days last Friday-Saturday, would be a day-night doubleheader.

Against Morehead State Patterson was a double-double man again. A day later in Nashville Cobb was all that and more against Vanderbilt.

Both exhorted Big Blue Nation to “get up and cheer us home.” They did.

Today, despite Ls to South Carolina and Mississippi State, Cobb and his teammates stand at the threshold again for SEC step-up opportunity with Georgia and Tennessee left.

SATURDAY NOTES

• Bowl eligibility for Kentucky, a record fourth straight, is half a loaf. Opportunity is at hand. Win at Georgia, and two days after Thanksgiving, put a bruise on Tennessee’s rocky top. Would be a full loaf.

• Best double of the day: Michigan and Rich Rodriquez shelled by Wisconsin and Tennessee got whuppin at Ole Miss.

• Basketball purists, mark your calendars, order your tickets – Dec. 5, Morehead at Murray State, and Feb. 25 Murray State at Morehead.

LITTLE GYMS PHOTO EXHIBIT

Kentucky’s abiding love for high school basketball’s golden era, 1940s-1960s is a pleasant memory parade, left in a wake made by consolidation, mega-schools and a groundswell of private ones across the state.

Yet a link remains. Small high school gyms.

Good news for fans young and old. Glasgow photographer Harold Kelley has preserved a “Contemporary view of Mid-1950s Southeastern Kentucky High School Gymnasiums with aTemples of the Game, black and white 27-photo collection.

The exhibit has been on display at Central Bank in downtown Lexington through November 20.

Kelley hopes other public venues ask to arrange to show his collection.

Meanwhile, he plans to expand the little gyms collection to include more small gyms around the Commonwealth before all are gone.

If you know of a small gym still standing from a time when high school basketball was the only game in town, or would be interested in displaying Kelley’s collection, e-mail him at haroldmk@scrtc.com or Sprtsinky@aol.com

MR. FOOTBALL CRITERIA FOR KY.

Robert Estrada, a high school lineman in Houston was voted national student-athlete for October by the National Football Foundation.

Relevance to Kentucky? Criteria for Mr. Football. Estrada has a 3.53 GPA and perfect school attendance and a football scholarship to Texas A&M.

“Robert’s leadership in his community clearly sets him apart from his peers. His actions, on and off the field, exemplify the qualities of the National Football Foundation,” NFF Chairman Archie Manning said.

In Kentucky, this criteria would level the field for down linemen with running backs and quarterbacks. The only lineman to earn Mr. Football since its inception in 1986, was Dennis Johnson at Harrodsburg in 1997.

WORTH REPEATING

Berea College coach John Mills after his basketball team won, told the campus newspaper: “... we want this campus to take ownership of this team. And we’re going to do our part to represent this campus and the community with the utmost sportsmanship and integrity. We know we’re going to make some mistakes along the way but we will take care of those and fix them. But when we hit that floor, we don’t hit the floor just for ourselves. We hit it for everyone here. It’s a great way to blow off steam, it’s a great way to get rid of some of the pressure that the day has brought upon you and it’s fun.”

And so it goes.

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