By Matt Jones on ©August 23rd, 2016 @ 9:00pm
If you are a long time fan of KSR, you know we like to do things differently. I am a big believer in the fact that there are lots of talented people out there with the ability to do things in the world of media, but it doesn’t happen because of a lack of opportunity. With that in mind, we are announcing the “Hey Kentucky” Co-Host Search. Here is the deal…as part of my new TV show beginning this fall on WLEX, I will be doing a daily debate with a rotating group of co-hosts that will be from all different walks of life. Some of these co-hosts are folks you know…Tony Vanetti and Mary Jo Perino for instance will be two of them. But we also want to get a diverse group of people from outside the world of traditional media. The reason why is simple…I found literally ever writer on KSR without going through traditional channels and it has been successful…so why not try the same for television.
So this is your chance. If you are interested in a career in television or simply would like the opportunity to do something fun on the side, here is your chance to give it a shot. All you have to do is send us a 3-5 minute clip of you debating issues in sports, news, politics or whatever to the “Hey Kentucky” Facebook page. Send it via the message there and if we think there is potential, you may get called in for a try out that we could air on the show. Our hope is to find a number of potential co-hosts this way and create new on-air talent going forward. It is that simple.
So if this is something that intrigues you, do it. IF you know someone you think would be good, let them know. It is worth a shot and you have nothing to lose. Like the Facebook Page below (do this either way so you can keep up with the show) and submit your video by FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 2. It is that easy. I am very confident we will find on-air talent via this route. Don’t wish it were you or someone you know. Give it a shot and good luck!
By Matt Jones on ©August 21st, 2016 @ 8:57pm
Anyone who is a regular reader of this website or listener to my radio show has heard me criticize the University of Louisville regularly for the past year due to the corruption that has occurred throughout their administration. Under the leadership of now-departed (sort of) President Ramsey, UL was accused of numerous, at best questionable and at worst illegal, acts over the course of the last year. The scandal built over the past nine months and has culminated in his departure. Throughout this controversy, my opinion has been very consistent. While the various acts around the University were all bad in and of themselves, I was particularly appalled at the way Ramsey and the University leadership continually attempted to cover up the worst misdeeds and members of the Louisville media (especially the city’s newspaper) often acted complicit by looking the other way as scandal after scandal occurred under their watch. As is often the case, for me it wasn’t just about the acts, it was also about the coverup.
With that in mind, I can’t help but be disappointed at the news from this week that the University of Kentucky has appealed a decision of the Kentucky Attorney General requiring it to disclose its records concerning the dismissal of Professor James Harwood. The facts of this case are somewhat complicated, but can be read in their entirety in this story by the UK student newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel. The short summary is that five different students accused Harwood of sexual assault and harassment in a series of events that spanned over the course of three school years. While the claims were brought separately, they culminated in an investigation by the University that determined a “reasonable person could believe the alleged behavior occurred.” Harwood was then due a hearing before a University Board on the issues, but instead chose to resign pursuant to the applicable provisions of Title IX. Those provisions, created by federal law, are complex and somewhat inconsistent in their goals, but they do allow a resignation prior to a hearing…an ending that can dissolve the accused’s case but do so before a true resolution as to what happened is reached. Victims don’t have the ability to appeal such a decision and it can allow the person who resigns the ability to work at another institution, without a final ruling on the merits of the case.
Two of the victims in the case were upset with this result and reached out to the Kentucky Kernel in order to try to shed light on what happened. The Kernel asked for records of the investigation and UK balked, saying that it would not turn them over due to concerns about the victims’ privacy. After doing a thorough and impressive investigation, the Kernel asked the AG to make a ruling on whether it was entitled to the records and the Office determined they must be turned over, with the names of the victims redacted. UK is appealing this decision, and the process of appeal is such that they are technically having to sue the student newspaper procedurally in order for it to take place. This has caused a great deal of controversy, leading to most of the state’s media outlets complaining about the lack of transparency at UK and the University suing its own student newspaper in the process.
I have watched all of this from afar and as with most controversies, I do believe it is more complicated than it is often portrayed. On the one hand, I completely understand the argument of the Kernel and the victims it says it represents (I am assuming for purposes of this column that the desires of the victims that the Kernel suggest represent their true feelings). When a public University professor commits such acts, it has an impact not only on those in question but potentially other, unnamed victims. It is important for the University’s faculty and students to know what happened, how the University handled it, what the University knew and when it knew it and other details about these complaints. Such transparency is important even beyond the acts currently in questioned. If Harwood was allowed to continue teaching after these incidents came to light, people need to know why and how that determination was made. And a complete understanding of what occurred will also help any future University (and their students) determine whether he should be allowed to be on their faculty in the years to come.
It seems, the University’s argument in response is to say that because Harwood taught such a small group of students in the Entomology Graduate Department, if they release the information in their records, those around that Department could figure out who the students were, thus invading their privacy. The University then could argue that this could have a chilling effect on future victims who believe that if they are in a small group in the future and are victimized, then such record releases would still have the effect of ID’ing them even after the redaction. The University thus believes it needs to appeal the AG’s decision (which requires them to sue the Kernel…but its not really “suing” them, it is just the procedure for the appeal), not so much for this case, but for the future. The University has to consider the presidential effect of its decision going forward when cases may not be as clear-cut.
Still, while I understand the theory behind the University’s argument, I believe UK is still making a mistake. If you believe the Kernel’s reporting (and the University has not disputed it publicly), the victims themselves want this information released. Not only do they believe it is important that the information be released about Harwood, but the University’s worries about privacy in this case are ultimately meaningless since virtually all the relevant facts are already out. To put another way, for the very few people who might be able to figure out who are the people involved, enough exists for that to already take place. If the University is worried about the effect on future cases, then release with a statement that it is only putting the information out here BECAUSE it is requested by the victims. Then if a future victim takes a different stance, it can be dealt with in a different manner. This can deal with future privacy concerns while also respecting what are crucial goals of the release, evaluating what took place and the ultimate response of the University. Faculty, students and the general public have a right to determine if the situation was handled with the best interest of everyone involved. A release of the records can allow such an evaluation to take place.
I will freely admit that I know nothing more about the Harwood case than what the Kernel has reported. I find it difficult to believe that UK, a University that is one of the only colleges in America to voluntarily release annual complete data of sexual assault/harassment reports on its campus, and President Capiluoto sought to downplay the allegations and protect Harwood. But I can’t know that for certain unless the records of the investigation are released. If we are going to claim (correctly) that President Ramsey’s continued attempts to cover up his University of Scandal over the last few years have been unacceptable, then the same level of scrutiny must also occur at the top of Kentucky’s leadership as well. What the Kernel asks for in this case is not only reasonable, as determined by the AG’s office, it is required by law. UK should do what is right here and release the records and help the victims and the University get the resolution they deserve.
By Matt Jones on ©August 07th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
If you are like me, you have spent most of this weekend on your couch watching a myriad of sporting events that you would have no interest in viewing in any other context except the Olympic games. Nelly may be a sucker for corn rows and manicured toes, but I am a sucker for the Olympics and every year I become so immersed in Swimming, Fencing, Table Tennis and other sports that I become very distracted for 16 days (the two Cycling Road Races were some of the best sports television I have seen in a long time). But even the heartiest fan of the 31st Olympiad in the Bluegrass should note that this is all a warmup to the main event coming soon, the start of a new Kentucky basketball season. And with that in mind, it is time to once again check in and see what we are hearing about how the team has done this summer. Because of the relatively new NCAA Summer Practice rules, the team actually gets to practice during the summer and thus unlike in years past when all we had were vague notions of what was happening in Pickup games, now we can get a little bit better sense of where the team is. Below is what I am hearing from those around the program at this point. However before we start, two big caveats are worth noting:
1. THIS IS ALL ABOUT PRACTICE As anyone who ever watched Ryan Harrow play in the Craft Center can attest, practice doesn’t tell us everything and doesn’t mean guys will (or won’t) shine when the lights come on
2. IT IS STILL VERY EARLY What we hear now may (and probably will) change before the season. Sometimes guys who looked great in the summer (like Mychal Mulder last year) struggle when the year starts. And sometimes guys who don’t have great summers (like MKG) hit their stride in the fall. But this is a good starting point and like last year, when early reports of Skal being behind and Tyler hitting another level of greatness came out, they often are good indicators of where we are to go.
With that said, here we go:
OVERALL: I am told that the staff is very pleased with the group they have at this point. Part of this is talent as the young players have (as a group) exceeded early expectations and there is some significant improvement among a couple of the returners. But more than actual talent, the work ethic of this group is what really excites those around the program. This group is the hardest working collective since 2012 and along with that year, has put in the most effort during the summer of any group of the Calipari era. That is significant and such desire to get better is of course very pleasing to all who have to coach.
I always like to begin with who has played the best this summer and two different sources came up with the same verdict. They told me that if the season started right now, the starting lineup would be De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, Bam Adebayo and Isaac Humphries with Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel able to be inserted instead of the Aussie depending on the opponent. In addition, Dominique Hawkins and Sacha Killeya-Jones have had good summers to slide into the 8/9 role at this point, making up what would be (today) the rotation. With that in mind, some individual player notes:
De’Aaron Fox: While his jump shot still needs work and there will be some development needed to get used to the college game, there is a lot of excitement about what Fox brings to the table. He is the most athletic Point Guard Calipari has had since John Wall and as one source told me, “his quickness from one end of the court to the other is breathtaking.” Everyone knew that Fox could pass but what has impressed the most early is that his defense is ahead of the curve. As one person told me, “he isn’t Tyler, but with his length and quickness, he is going to get a lot of steals.”
Malik Monk: I expect a ton of points from Monk and everyone I have spoken with says he (and one other player to come) has been the revelations of the summer of the summer. He can score in bunches and is super quick, but his explosiveness in attacking the rim is what gets everyone so excited. One source who has heard me talk about how good Briscoe is at the rim says that Monk may be just as good, if not better. Plus his leaping is said to be “other-worldly.” All I hear is praise for Monk from everyone.
Isaiah Briscoe: The issue for every player returning for a second year at Kentucky is how they handle not being a “One and Done” This is especially true for a guy like Briscoe who desperately wanted to go to the League. From all indications, Briscoe has handled it perfectly. He has worked hard since returning and has been a leader on and off the court. Free throw shooting is still an issue (he has improved but still needs more work), but his outside shooting has been solid and defensively, he will be the third wheel in backcourt that is going to be a nightmare for teams on the perimeter.
Bam Adebayo: Bam has dealt with an ankle injury that has made his participation sporadic this summer. Still there are no worries about his health coming into the Fall and everyone believes he will be a star. One source told me, “I keep hearing you say Shawn Kemp and that may be true in terms of explosiveness” but he is stronger and shoots slightly better. He is a beast. I think the nation is sleeping on how good he can be.
Isaac Humphries: The story of the summer from what I am told. He has gotten his body into shape, has really improved offensively and has been the revelation of the summer months. Humphries is still not quick and will have some issues defensively, but his rebounding is very solid and he has great hands. As one source told me, “if he can hit the free throw line jumper and rebound, it would be huge…and he has been great at both.” IF the season started today, he would start.
Derek Willis: Leaving aside the problem earlier this year, people are happy with Derek’s progression. He is working hard, spending lots of time at the gym and has improved slightly defensively. At this point, Calipari wants him for his offense and outside shooting and on that, he is still top notch. HE will get lots of open corner threes and if he makes them, UK becomes hard to stop. A good summer has been had by Derek.
Wenyen Gabriel: The only player who may be slightly behind where most thought he would be at this point is Wenyen Gabriel. His adjustment to the college game has take a little bit longer and he is not quite on the level of the three Freshman mentioned before. His athleticism is still superb but the adjustment period is going to be longer than some expected. I am told that he still will contend for a starting spot but he needs to improve on shooting, court awareness and defense as the fall moves forward.
EVERYONE ELSE: The rest of the group has made advances. Dominique Hawkins has had a great summer from what I am told and has improved more than any other year he has been here. As one source told me, “we have three great guards or Dominique would be contending to start.” Sacha Killeya-Jones is going to play this year but I think will do so in a reserve role. His athleticism is off the charts (only Willie’s would be better from a big man perspective) and he has a nice jumper. But he has a lot of work to do on toughness and physicality and I think he will settle in as a reserve this season. Mychal Mulder has improved but is likely still a notch below this group, however if he can make shots consistently (something he couldn’t do last year), there will be situations where he can play.
So that is where things stand now. The team has most of the next two weeks off from official practice, although they will still be working out. I can always tell when those around the program are truly excited or feel work has to be done (this group doesn’t really get negative). They are excited and that should make everyone feel optimistic.
By Matt Jones on ©July 12th, 2016 @ 11:00pm
It is that time of year again. A tradition started last summer has become a sensation to sweep the state. It is Year 2 of the KSR CHAIN RESTAURANT BRACKET. We began this last year and only did Fast Food, which caused a slight degree of controversy. The winner was Qdoba over Subway in the finals, but some believed Qdoba didnt really count as fast food and that led to unneeded controversy. So we decided to make things clearer this year. This season, we are combining ALL chain restaurants, from fast food to high-end casual. It is a mixed bag with lots of odd match ups, but that is what makes America great.
Here is how the field was picked:
1. We took restaurants on the Top 100 biggest chain list and then picked the ones with a heavy presence in Kentucky. Then we added a couple that are bigger here and not nationally (Skyline, Fazolis, etc).
2. We randomly did the bracket with no seeds. Since I will be one of the voters for the winner, it makes no sense to have me seed the field. So I did a random number generator to get the field…no bias, all randomness
3. The winners are based on which restaurants you like more. This isn’t which is the highest quality or the most successful…it is simply, who do you like more. When you do your own bracket with friends and family, that is what rules…nothing more, nothing less.
We will pick the winners over the next two days of KSR Radio. It starts tomorrow…I get a vote, Ryan gets one, Shannon gets one, the crowd at the Tour stop does and if there is a tie, we will go to either a caller or Drew Franklin…scientific, just like it should be.
But the good in this is if you do it for yourself. Who do you like? Who should be the winner? Have at it…the KSR Food Bracket is here Again
I remember the first time someone sent me a text message. I was in law school and on my new cell phone (which was that tiny square Nokia thing we all had back then), my then-girlfriend texted me to say “isn’t this cool?!?” Beyond the excess amount of punctuation marks, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the fact that this new way to communicate seemed a bit of a hassle. Not only was it charging me money (10 cents a message back then), but responding took forever. There were three letters on every number, I kept making mistakes continuously and my response (“Sure. How r u?”) took me at least five minutes. At that moment I decreed that texting was a total waste of time and anyone that did it needed something to do with their spare time.
Fast forward 13 years and now texting is my most consistent form of communication. When someone takes the time to call me instead of texting, I assume that the conversation is going to be very intense, that they have more than two sentences worth of thoughts to communicate and that my voicemail is probably the best play for their response. What once seemed ridiculous has now become commonplace. We live in a texting world. I thought of that today as I walked the streets of Louisville and saw 30-40 people with their heads buried in their phones playing “Pokemon Go.” I don’t claim to know anything about it beyond the basic fact that you use your phone to walk the streets and track down/accumulate little characters that then prove to the world you are king of the Pokemon army. It seems to me like a stupendous waste of time but as I looked up and down the Highlands, there were people of all ages, ranging from excited children to bearded hipsters to old hippies with pale legs, all playing it with intensity and happiness. My natural instinct is to mock and ridicule. But maybe like with texting, we are on the brink of living in a Pokemon world. Overcome by the reality of their monotonous lives, maybe people will get joy out of acting like they live in a massive cartoon land, where places are to be visited not for their intrinsic beauty but for the collection of digital rewards. I have read that Pokemon Go was just released in America on Wednesday night, and if that is true, my stroll down the streets of Louisville suggest that it has already been massively successful. It seems moronic to me, but then again so once did texting. Its a Pokemon Go world and I guess we all just have to deal with it (unless it becomes like Trivia Crack…remember how we all played that for a few weeks? Whatever happened to that?)
A few notes on the weekend:
— With all the tragedy that engulfed this country last week and the resulting spread of stupid opinions throughout the Facebook world, I used this weekend as a chance to unplug from most internet communication and instead just watch a number of sporting events. I spent a lot of time watching NBA Summer League and seeing former UK players hit a very high level. The two players that were by far the most impressive were Devin Booker and Trey Lyles, both young men who are headed for NBA stardom. Both guys had 28 points in the games I watched and each were the best player on the floor by a large degree. The 2014 UK recruiting class was initially considered the worst of the Calipari era, based solely on rankings and the lack of any real star power beyond Karl Towns. But in the end, it could be the best as I think there are two potential high level NBA starters (Booker/Lyles), one starting NBA point guard (Ulis) and a historically transcendent potential star (Towns). That is pretty freaking good.
— The happiest part of the weekend to me was reading this morning that Andrew Harrison signed a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. The three year deal basically ensures that Harrison will be in the league and that his struggles to get accepted by a NBA team are complete. He still may have some D-League service, but now if it happens he gets NBA money and the team will be much more likely to call him up since his contract is on their books. It is a huge win for Andrew who was under a lot of pressure this summer. If he finished this year without a deal, he could easily end up in the drifting guard pile of guys who float in and out of NBA rosters and rarely stick to make any money. A NBA scout once told me “big guys get three years, guards two years…if they aren’t in the NBA then, the chance of them ever making it becomes very remote.” I think that is true, especially when you are like Andrew and your talent isn’t due to extreme physical gifts. Andrew was dominant in his first couple of Summer League games and that was enough for Memphis to sign him, a great result for the eldest Harrison. Andrew took more criticism than any UK player since Saul Smith and deserved virtually none of it. He won at a high level at UK and is a great kid who I hope rightly celebrates the culmination of a ton of work to get to this point.
— This afternoon I also watched the championship of the Peach Jam, where a number of UK targets were playing, including Trae Young, Mohammed Bamba and Quade Green. All of them showed their talents but Trae Young is exceptional. In fact, Trae Young is in my mind, the most important recruit of the class for UK. His talent is immense, as he plays the Point Guard position exactly as you would hope…he can pass, handle the ball, frustrate on defense and finish at the rim. But what was so impressive today is the range he has on his outside shots. Young made threes from all angles and dominated a first half that saw his team lead by 18. On a floor with four of the top 50 players in America, Young was the standout and even outshone the Bamba/Michael Porter Jr duo competing to be the top player in America. Young is said to be torn between Oklahoma and Kentucky. He is close with DeAaron Fox, but is also from Norman and friends with Buddy Hield. His recruitment will probably take some more time, but I want him badly in Blue and White…he should be the next of the great UK point guards under Calipari.
— SEC Media Days start tomorrow and KSR has Nick Roush and Freddie Maggard on the scene in Birmingham for the events. In the rest of the SEC, this is one of the biggest weeks of the year, with a circus of people waiting to hear every line uttered by the SEC coaches and players before another massive season. In Kentucky, we rarely even know it is going on. My hope is that Mark Stoops can find a way to get folks excited this year in the same way that he has the previous three but he faces an uphill climb. Most fans I have spoken with are completely in “wait and see” mode and to the extent there has been any talk about football it has been wondering if a season-crushing loss to Southern Miss in the opening game is a possibility. I think the Cats win that game and have a fighting shot the next week versus Florida, but the reality is that for Stoops, success this season is a must. He has had such a great impact on the program in terms of excitement, facilities and talent that UK Football is in a significantly better place today than it was before he arrived. But now he needs to win…this is the year and the road to wherever we end up begins this week.
Six weeks to football…Freddie (who is as excited for SEC Media Days as any human should reasonably be allowed to be) and Nick are down there giving KSR all the coverage one can handle. Keep checking in this week to see what is happening.
Radio is in Louisville tomorrow, Lexington on Tuesday and then Central Kentucky the rest of the week…come out to a show and listen up before we head to Cleveland on Monday.
Its Sunday night, most of you are watching “Game of Thrones” and I have just returned from a two week vacation across this great country of ours. I went a number of places and have a ton of stories that I will share on radio, but I also come back with a little personal news. Last Tuesday I was fortunate enough to get to go to Bristol, Connecticut and spend some time at ESPN. It was one of the cooler days of my professional career and I had an amazing time. After my visit there, I was asked to be a fill-in panelist on First Take this upcoming Friday morning. I will be heading back to Bristol and doing the show Live at 10 am on ESPN2 with some other folks during the vacations of some of the regulars. It is obviously a huge opportunity for me and something that I am beyond excited about getting to do. I hope you wonderful readers will tune in and check it out as I try not to be so nervous that I throw up all over the set. I started this site as a side hobby nearly 11 years ago and never would have imagined that I would get the chance to do something like this and I am thrilled with the opportunity. As always, I thank all of you who have been following/reading/listening during that time for helping make it happen. I hope to do everyone proud. With that some quick thoughts on the stories that occurred while I was gone:
— I was slightly disappointed at how Draft night fell for the UK guys as all four of our players ended up with slightly worse situations than I would have hoped. Jamal Murray will lead the NBA in Rookie scoring in Denver and I think he can be very successful, but had he been on Boston or Minnesota, it would have been nice to get on a more likely playoff team. Skal falling to #28 was sad to watch, but was probably more in line with his talent than the lottery projections. I still think he has real upside, although I do wonder if Sacramento is the perfect place to achieve it. Tyler Ulis falling to the second round was a bummer, but he now joins the Phoenix Wildcats, a team I think he will make and excel on with Booker/Knight/Bledsoe/Archie. It is a pace of play that works for his game and I do like the fit. Alex Poythress not getting picked wasn’t shocking but since he didnt sign a complete deal, he now will have to work very hard in the Summer League to make a team. I hope it happens for him as he is a great kid who deserves success.
— After I left, the details of the Derek Willis arrest came out as did the video. While it was embarrassing to see and very tough to watch, I hope the entire situation makes Derek more focused going into his Senior year. Willis is very lucky that his punishment wasn’t greater but more importantly, fortunate that he didn’t hurt himself or someone else. Derek is a great kid with a terrific future, but he simply can’t make mistakes such as this going forward as his window of opportunity will close with any future mess-ups. It is also worth noting that some fans criticized KSR for posting the video and saying that it was a mistake on our part. I respectfully disagree. Willis and other UK players get the tremendous benefit of playing at a University where their mere presence can give them the set-up for life opportunities most only dream about. But with that comes scrutiny and when you mess up, especially when legal authorities become involved, such scrutiny (and embarrassing videos) will follow. Hopefully it will be a positive lesson for everyone going forward.
— On Friday of last week, we saw a huge explosion of news at UL as Governor Matt Bevin disbanded the UL board and announced the resignation of James Ramsey as President. At first I applauded the decision and thought it was a tremendous move to help pull away the huge dark cloud that has enveloped that University over the past year. But as time has gone on, I am becoming much more skeptical. First, it seems that Ramsey’s resignation hasn’t yet taken place and he has said he may stay on for another entire school year…an odd decision considering the immediacy of the dissolution of the board. Second and MUCH MORE IMPORTANT, nothing Bevin said addressed Ramsey’s role as head of the UL Foundation….this is important as it is the place where a huge part of his salary is generated and where most of the sketchy/scandalous behavior of his tenure took place. So right now all we have is a board that (correctly) wanted the President gone replaced while the President has been left in power potential for at least one year as President and maybe longer as Foundation chair. That strikes me as very little meaningful change and has me much more skeptical of the overall decision than I was initially. If Ramsey is the problem (which he is), why is he still in place while the Board that wanted him gone has been booted? The answer I guess is still to come.
— I LOVED the Calipari vs Rick war of words over the past week. While I don’t know if Calipari truly meant his comments about what coaches know at their program to be about Pitino, it isn’t a shock that most took it like that (and let’s face it, he probably meant Rick at least a bit). I didn’t mind Pitino’s “keep my name out of your mouth” retort either as I suspect I would have done the same thing in his shoes. I did find it hilarious that Rick says he only does or says things to help the image of college basketball…one of the most hilariously absurd statements to come from a man that has plenty similar ones in his past. I love when these two go back and forth…it makes the rivalry better and proves publicly what everyone knows privately…they hate each other. Let it out in public. There is no reason to hide it..the rivalry is red hot and such antics only make it better.
Finally, I have heard a lot of good thing about the early pickup game reports for the UK Basketball team, along with some good info on each player. I will share that later in the week here on the site…but a short version that has me excited is that DeAaron Fox is the real deal Holyfield. Also, I want to thank all the folks who filled in for me on the radio show while I was gone. I thought there was a great variety of people and something for everybody during the two weeks. Finally (I say again), we are starting our “Where in The World is KSR Tour? tomorrow with our first stop in a small town close to Lexington. Every morning on the show we will let you know where we are and if you are close enough to come see us, you can win UK tickets. It is a different type of tour than in years past but one that I think will be entertaining on the air. I appreciate everyone supporting the show and site while I was gone and I look forward to getting back in high gear this week.
We are coming upon KSR’s 11th Anniversary this fall and sometimes I can’t help but feel as if time just keeps passing by. That is especially true when I find pictures like the one above…this was around 2006 or so when we first decided to start promoting KSR at UK Football games. The crew above included most (although not all) of the early writers, the KSR girls who walked around tailgates promoting the site (in custom-made jerseys that were not of the highest quality) and a random guy who I don’t know (the guy on the far right). We were kind of a rag-tag bunch back then, I was much chubbier and had worse hair (if that’s possible) and we had no idea what was to come. But in many ways those were the most fun days as we just wrote whatever wanted, consequences be damned. It was a great time to be a blogger, back when no one knew what that even meant.
But now things are slightly different as social media has changed everything and the rise of KSR means that we have to be careful what we say because it does have repercussions. Posts that were made back then (such as the epic time when Drew’s account was legitimately hacked and someone posted something that were it to come out now, we would be the subject of nationwide Twitter scorn), would be received very differently now. And with that comes the rise of stories that are handled much differently at this point. Case in point, the rumor that went around the internet this weekend about trouble with UK Football. Back in the day, stories about what was going on “behind the scenes” in UK sports almost always started on the internet, and usually on message boards. These discussion threads often contained people that legitimately knew what was happening behind the scenes and posting under made-up pseudonyms (such as Freshshava, TCCat, CarolinaWildcats and some dude named Magloire52), news came out that virtually always beat the major media sites. I got my start on such forums and I will always have soft spot for them. What happened over time usually was that a poster would come with information, everyone would be skeptical and if it proved true, then said poster would get vaunted “Insider” status and be believed more in the future. It was a meritocracy of sorts and those that really knew what was going on (which usually meant they talked to an equipment manager, former player or Tubby’s secretary) became the real go-to people of UK’s internet world. Plus if something was too outlandish, message board moderators could delete it and police the worst of the excess. It was free-flowing but with a bit of control.
Now things have changed. Message boards aren’t quite as popular as they once were as people have instead moved to the world of social media. Blogs such as KSR can still be centers of UK-related information, but now any individual can push their “news” or “scoop” via Twitter and with just a couple of Retweets, it can enter the public’s mind. Without the “status” of a media platform or a history of postings as with message boards, there is no way for the public to know for certain whether the individual knows what s/he is talking about and thus rumors that would have once been quickly dismissed, now take on a life of their own. This happened with the UK football rumor over the weekend and put me (and others that cover UK in a difficult spot). After speaking with people around the program, I am convinced that there was no truth to the rumor in any fashion. But as the days went on, I kept getting asked about it more and more, thus showcasing to me that it was spreading. So what do you do? If you say nothing (as I chose to do from Saturday through this morning), then people see that silence as proof of “something going on.” A look at any UL message board today will show threads of UL fans convinced that the rumor must be true because “UK reporters aren’t saying anything.” I have received 20 different versions of the comment “you report on UL scandals but ignore the Football one at your school!” on Twitter from #L1C4 fans in the last few days. This mindset ignored the possibility that (GASP!) the whole thing was just made up to begin with and silence was considered proof. Such is the world we live in.
So today I tweeted out that there was nothing too it…others soon followed with similar agreement and to any reasonable reader, the whole thing can be put to bed. However others said to me, “you mentioning dignifies it and makes more people look up to see what was being said.” This is no doubt true and I am sure there are many of you that have done the same thing. But I am not sure how else to handle the situation…in today’s world there are no newspaper editors, message board moderators or blog writers who can make a rumor go away. If people want it to proceed it will…so it seems the only way to make it disappear is to acknowledge it…a PR 101 mistake in the old days that now seems to me to have been turned on its heels.
All of this brings me to the UK Hoops issues of the last few weeks. Everywhere I have gone people over the last month, people have asked me some form of “So tell me what’s REALLY going on with UK Hoops.” There is a distinct mindset shared by many…maybe even you. With all the dismissals and departures and the team down to just a few players and a new staff something MUST HAVE happened that is a bombshell that people don’t know yet. I will be honest, I thought the same thing as the story first broke. But I have spent a good deal of time over the last two weeks talking to former players, administrators, reporters and others trying to find if there is something else really going on…and honestly I just don’t think there is. In fact, if I were to summarize what I think caused the UK Hoops issues, it is this:
Matthew Mitchell over the last couple of years got away from what made him have success. In a number of different areas, his management of the program dipped because of mistakes in judgment and action. He spent less time around the players as he became involved in secondary issues and spent more time with his family. He relied on his (new) Assistant coaches to fill in for his role when he wasn’t around and because he didn’t cultivate those relationships properly either, they did not fill those voids. Mitchell has always been a tough coach, but like Calipari has/had with Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne, Mitchell relied on his Assistants to be “good cops” to his “bad cop.” His initial assistants did that well but the more recent ones did not, in part because their relationship with him was not strong. As he drifted from the team, he wasn’t able to see morale/player issues developing and the success on the court made him ignore/dismiss the problems that he did see. Over time the situation grew worse and when four players left last year, rather than deal with the overall change, each was dismissed as “an individual problem.” Then when it happened again this year and a staff overhaul occurred as well, reality smacked everyone in the face. He lost his team and now has to work to get it back.
After a lot of time spent looking into the UK Hoops situation, the above is my conclusion. But there will be many who simply dismiss this offhand. I understand that mindset. But as I recently said at an event, I would equate the problems over the last two years to the dissolution of a relationship. Sometimes when two people break up, it is because of an explosive event, like one spouse cheating on the other. However most of the time, there isn’t a moment, but rather a gradual parting of the two parties due to small acts or mistakes that add up over time. Not every divorce is scandalous…many end because of the slow, methodical act of simply falling out of love due to a culmination of events that viewed individually, might be relatively minor. That is what I think happened with the UK Hoops program and Matthew Mitchell. The relationship became frayed slowly over time, not in one major scandal.
Is that the answer that the Internet (and many fans) want to hear? Maybe not. It is a lot more fun to speculate online, assume the worst conspiracy theory and then when its your rival, bring them down with continued innuendo. But often the truth is much more boring than most wish it would be. People focus on the UL scandals that I have talked about over the last few years (Ware/Behanan, Pitino/Sypher, Katina-Ramsey-Pitino-Behanan-Montrezl-T-Will-Minardi Hall ceiling-Coach Mike…well you get the idea) but they overlook the many I have been told that I never mentioned because I thought they were likely false. But that is just my filter and the filter for others, especially in the social media world, may be much different. The days of ignoring rumors or waiting for verified sources to dismiss fan chatter are basically gone…once people talk about it, then it becomes a story, whether or not it is true. To me the best way to handle it, is to acknowledge and deal with it. That is the new reality for media and those in the public eye, as the two situations with UK Football and UK Hoops have shown these last few days.
Long time no talk…it has been a bit since I have taken to these here interwebs to write, but today seemed as good a time as any. I had a tremendous weekend doing the whole Derby thing and I hope it found you folks having a good time as well. It was a great showcase for our state and UK folks were everywhere (including a number of Billy Gillispie sightings all around Lexington). I hit the Trifecta on the Derby for the 4th straight year, although the excitement was muted a bit by the fact that with the three favorites coming in via the order of their odds, the payoff was relatively small. Still a win is a win and we celebrate victories here, so I am in a positive mood. With that in mind, a few notes on the goings on around the state:
— Everywhere I went this weekend, people asked me the same question: “What are you hearing about Marquis Bolden?” This question always fascinates me because it implies the idea that I would know secret information about the whole thing that I am not sharing publicly but will share to my drunk new amigo in the betting line at Churchill Downs. The answer unfortunately however was “Nothing” because there has been so little info to slip about this entire process in the last few weeks. I have talked a great deal on the radio about the Bolden timeline but it is worth noting on here as well. From my perspective, this is how Bolden’s decision has played out:
Fall Signing Period: Bolden was very close to committing to Kentucky but was concerned about who would be returning for the Cats (specifically Skal/Lee). He decides to hold off until the Spring. Jarrett Allen is ready to commit to Kentucky at this time, but UK suggests he holds off due to class size and Allen moves on to other schools.
January or so: Bolden’s Mother falls for Duke and decides that is where she wants him to go definitively. Bolden still undecided, but family becomes very pro-Duke
Late March: Bolden begins to lean heavily to Duke due to family situation, etc. Folks around Kentucky feel significantly less confident and the assumption is he is likely a Blue Devil
McDonalds All American Game: UK Commitments heavily work on Bolden during the week and I am told may have helped put Kentucky back at the front of his mind. Kid becomes torn again.
Since that period, information has basically become non-existent. There has been chatter here and there about where he is leaning, various bloggers and recruiting writers have flipped their predictions back and forth and thus fans have gone up and down in confidence. But from the people I talk to, who in my opinion know the situation as well as anyone, there is no real confidence either way. I feel confident that Kentucky is in play and I do believe if it were totally up to the kid, he would be a Cat. But the family dynamics are not something I am (or possibly anyone is) privy to and thus I don’t know how it ends up. I heard this weekend that most parties expect a decision date this week. We shall see.
Tanya Tucker still gets it done…I saw her at Barnstable Brown this weekend and she performed “Me and Bobbie McGee”…it was amazing. My grandmother used to call her a floozie, but I am still a fan
— I am not sure I have seen a more strange story than the one around the UK Hoops team over the past few weeks. I feel bad for Matthew Mitchell and the program but I think what we are seeing in the culmination of a 2-3 year period where things were slowly slipping around the team. Mitchell had achieved a great deal of success and with that, new opportunities flourished for him. He has a young family who he wanted to spend time with and during that period, his presence around the program was lessened. In other circumstances that might be ok, but the combination of his attention slipping, his hard style as a coach, Assistant turnover based on difficulty finding the right “fit” and other factors caused a situation that spiraled out of control over the last 2 months. After talking to a number of people around the program, I honestly don’t think there is a “smoking gun” that will come out that has caused all of the player and coach turnover. Instead, it was the more methodical slow degradation of team chemistry that can best be explained by what I would call the “absentee dad” syndrome. Matthew Mitchell deserves a chance to right the ship and his hiring of his last two Assistant Coaches (and I am hearing a likely third that is a former player…possibly Amber Smith) is sure to help that process. But a deep hole has been dug. They only will have 7 scholarship players next year at this point and the future is in question. Makayla Epps will ensure UK is competitive next year, but the two years following could be rough without a significant series of good news moments. Whether that will happen remains to be seen, but it will be a very tough and important next 12 months for the future of Mitchell’s tenure here and the program as a whole.
— Call me old-fashioned, but I think what Hubie Brown is describing here should be a foul
— Over the years, one of the great mysteries of UK Athletics has been how the Hall of Fame and retirement of Jerseys process works. When the topic comes up on the show, I find that fans have differing opinions and there is a general lack of understanding of why things have progressed the way they have. This topic was the feature of Episode 38 of my Podcast with Oscar Combs and I really recommend you listen to it. Oscar describes how one gets their jersey retired and he and I get into a little “old school vs new school” debate about who should have their jersey retired and why. We are friends and the back and forth is good natured. But it also reflects what I think are two differing mindsets on the subject and is definitely worth a listen. Check it out…and the other Podcasts while you are at it:
We will check back in later this week.
By Matt Jones on ©May 01st, 2016 @ 8:28pm
Because of all the chatter around the decision of the NCAA to not mention UNC Basketball and Football in its own most recent set of Allegations against the Tar Heels, another potentially important policy by the organization seems to have been looked overlooked. Last week the NCAA announced that it has passed an anti-discrimination provision for the awarding of NCAA Championship sites, requiring that states that seek to host its events “must demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.” The decision comes on the heels of the passing of HB 2 in North Carolina, a bill that restricts the ability of local entities to provide anti-discrimination provisions in their communities on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill has caused a great deal of controversy around the state with businesses, musical artists and the NBA threatening or sustaining boycotts of the state. The NCAA’s announcement provides that if North Carolina or other states, have such legislation in place starting next year, the NCAA will consider either not rewarding or pulling its championships away in those locations.
What does this all mean? Well on the surface it seems to mean that unless North Carolina changes its law, the NCAA will not allow any NCAA Tournament sites in North Carolina. That of course is huge. Over the course of the past 20 years, it has been a rare year when either the first and second rounds or occasionally the Regional itself, have not been played in North Carolina. With Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh picked as possible sites, the best North Carolina and Duke teams have been almost assured of essentially two home games on their way to the Final Four. This has undoubtedly had a positive impact and the high attendance at these locations is part of the reason for their assignment as hosts. If the state of North Carolina does not change its law this summer (the NCAA gave a July 1 deadline), beginning in 2017, such sites may no longer be allowed as hosts. That is a big deal.
Regardless of what you think about the legislation or the boycotts (feel free to debate in the comments section, although you can be assured that you are unlikely to change anyone’s mind in the process…rare is the person who has a belief on an issue and then changes that strongly held notion because of an anonymous comment on a blog), one thing is clear…they are having an impact. And while the economic longterm effect is still to be determined, from a strictly basketball standpoint HB 2 will have a negative impact on two of the biggest college basketball programs under the new NCAA policy. Will that be enough to change the law in a basketball obsessed state such as North Carolina (or keep such laws from being passed in oh say, Kentucky)? That remains to be seen.
What if college athletes could trade on their own endorsement ability while they were in college? Would this make college sports more appealing for athletes, who could see their money value and remain eligible for amateur sports? And is it possible that those Universities with the biggest fan bases (and thus the biggest markets for endorsements) would see their influence grow as players realize that more income can be made at these “brand” programs? All of these questions could be answered soon with the news today that the NCAA is apparently considering allowing players to endorse products without losing their amateur status. According to the Big Lead, Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman stated that such a proposal is now being considered by the NCAA and could come into effect in the next 2 years. She said,
“That’s one that’s actually under consideration I believe by the NCAA. It’s actually a time right now where student athlete interests are being closely examined. I don’t have an answer for you on that one today but I will say that and a number of other topics are under review, and I think rightly by the NCAA and it’s very possible that over the course of the next year or two as these these ideas work their way through the legislative system you could see changes.”
That is a fairly massive potential change for college sports and one that could have profound impact. Allowing student athletes to handle their own brand and receive endorsement income would essentially put their fate as marketers totally in their hands and not allow them to simply be moneymakers for their University. It is a change that I think is long overdue (there is no other walk of life where one cannot make money off their own name) and has some benefits for the colleges as well (they can allow players to be paid without having to be the ones doing the actual paying). This is the solution that Jay Bilas has long advocated and if one breaks it down, it seems not only positive, but needed as well.
With that said, the ramifications will be immense. Programs with bigger market shares or national brands will see their value raise to an even larger degree. The change in enforcement will go from keeping amateur status pure to protecting against collusion from the Universities and endorsers in getting athletes to come to a school. As with any new solution, new problems will arise. But it is a step in the right direction and in my view has the added bonus of being a positive for athletes and for UK basketball, a program that will surely see some of the highest endorsed players in all of college athletics. This story isn’t getting the attention I believe it should, but if it happens, the result will be profound and it bears watching over the coming months.