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Reporter tells Kevin Knox he needs a better agent

Reporter tells Kevin Knox he needs a better agent

As expected, the FBI’s investigation into shoe companies’ involvement in college basketball was a hot topic at Kentucky’s Media Day. By now you’ve heard about the tense moment between John Calipari and Jerry Tipton when Tipton asked Cal about the FBI investigation:

It may surprise a lot of you, but I’m Team Jerry on this one. Yes, by that point, Calipari had been asked three questions about the FBI investigation and only one about his team; however, it’s clearly the biggest topic in the sport right now and, as Jerry said, the media has every right to ask the questions they want to ask on Media — not Coach! — Day. I understand Cal’s frustration as well; Kentucky’s not involved in the investigation, so why continue to address it when he could be talking about his own team? Yet, honestly, in the wake of the scandal down the road, yesterday’s kerfuffle was a refreshing reminder that, unlike Louisville, Kentucky has reporters that will press the hard issues, even if it makes the head coach throw up his hands in frustration.

All of that being said, some reporters took it a bit too far. I was in a pool of media surrounding Kevin Knox, the highest ranked freshman on Kentucky’s roster. Knox was asked several times about his involvement with shoe companies and whether or not he was offered anything to come to Kentucky, to which he said no.

“I came to Kentucky because I knew Cal would push me,” Knox said. “I knew I would get the treatment I wanted. I knew [Kenny Payne] would push me to my hardest. I knew the practices would be really competitive and that’s something I need. I grew up with a disciplined family, a hard-working family. I knew Cal was a hard worker, so I came here because of that. I came here because I wanted to play with other guys. I didn’t come here for no money or nothing like that.”

Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal asked Knox if he could have gotten money somewhere else, which is when it got a little awkward.

“No, nothing like that,” Knox said. “I was a real clear guy. Nothing was — not my family. We came here because we wanted to come here, none of the schools offered me nothing.”

“You need a better agent,” Sullivan quipped, and when Knox looked at him, he repeated it. “You need a better agent. Some guys seem to be cashing in.” 

Kudos to Knox for regrouping to deliver a professional, thoughtful answer.

“I guess those other schools had a lot of problems but not at Kentucky. Cal is really big about not giving out money because a lot of people came here because they want to get to the next level. That’s the reason a lot of us came here, because we want that. Kentucky has nothing to do with no money.”

 


Impressions From My First UK Basketball Media Day

Impressions From My First UK Basketball Media Day

What. A. Day.

I’ve covered countless basketball games, practices, and events working for KSR, but this was my first experience at UK Basketball Media Day.

And it was everything I could’ve hoped for, and more.

We saw some priceless comments, injury updates, and some pretty crucial information about this team and the upcoming season.

Here are my seven reactions from covering my first Media Day:

Jerry Tipton doesn’t care about stirring the pot

Forget Mayweather vs. MacGregor, we have Tipton vs. Calipari going viral.

Just a few questions in, Tipton sent shockwaves throughout the bluegrass when he made an effort to ask Calipari a question about the FBI. Initially, Cal denied and said he wanted to talk about his team only. Tipton responded by saying “This is a Media Day, not Coach Day.”

Calipari didn’t like it very much.

Here’s the video in case you missed this beautiful exchange:

In at least five of the player interviews I was a part of, Tipton asked the players about the FBI scandal and their impressions on that. If a player didn’t give an in-depth answer, he pushed for further comment. That man wanted answers, I tell ya.

Never change, Jerry.

Players came to Kentucky to make money in the NBA, not now

When various media members mentioned the FBI and potential worries about the investigation, the Kentucky players laughed it off.

Several of the players were blunt, saying they chose to play at UK because they can get to the NBA and make money faster than anywhere else. They said they didn’t need to get paid now, because the payoff is far greater in a year or two.

Hamidou Diallo agreed, saying this investigation doesn’t impact anyone on the team.

“That doesn’t affect me or my teammates at all. We’re just worried about getting out here and starting the season off right,” he said.

“We don’t have nothing to worry about,” said Kentucky point guard Quade Green. “None of us were in it. We did everything the right way, and that was that. We came here because of the right things.”

“We’re focused on this season,” said Sacha Killeya-Jones. “It’s a couple schools that broke a couple rules, they got caught up in it, and now we gotta see what happens with them.”

I think this is an underrated storyline of the day. Our kids think we’re good to go.

Kevin Knox made a massive jump

When Calipari was asked who would be the go-to clutch shooter on this team, he couldn’t give an answer. He said the team has a lot of shot makers, but he just hasn’t seen them enough to make a decision on “the” guy at the end of games.

What he did know? Knox took a major step up in the last few days.

Here’s what Cal said about his five-star forward’s jump:

“It was on rebounding the ball, playing tougher. It was driving into the lane and taking hits. Normally he would drive in and he would take a shot. I’m forcing him to drive. He’d rather shoot a jumper. You’re not, you’re driving the ball. Yesterday he just got it. That’s what happens. These kids, you’re asking them to do stuff they’ve never had to do. He got it.”

Jarred Vanderbilt won’t let a boot slow him down at Big Blue Madness

After answering countless questions about his injury and how much time he’d be missing, Vanderbilt was relieved to answer about something (kind of ) unrelated.

It’s well known throughout the team that Vanderbilt is extremely goofy and loves to dance, so I asked him how the boot would affect his dance moves tomorrow night.

“It might have changed my original dance a little bit, but I’m still gonna pull a little something out for tomorrow,” said the five-star forward.

Does he have a song decided on yet?

“No not yet, I can’t decide. I haven’t decided on anything yet, but it’s coming,” he said.

Kevin Knox doesn’t want to hear about shooting issues

One of the biggest concerns about this team is their ability to make shots from the outside, at least if you ask the media.

In Kevin Knox’s eyes, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think that’s completely false. I think we’re a really good shooting team,” he said. “They’re basing that off high school stats and stuff like that, but they don’t realize people get better at shooting. A bad shooter can turn into a great shooter in a span of a year or two. I don’t pay attention to any of that.”

Nick Richards was hilarious

In some of the initial conversations I’ve had with Richards, he’s been fairly quiet and reserved.

Today, Richards was out of his shell and giving some pretty incredible responses.

He talked about his love for sitting alone in the dark, standing up to DeMarcus Cousins in a pickup game, finding confidence in himself playing against LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony, among countless other things.

He’s getting comfortable with the media, and we love him for it.

This team is fun

That is all.


Get ready, BBN. Basketball season begins tomorrow.


Revisiting Kentucky Football’s 2017 Statistical Benchmarks Halfway Through the Season

Pic by Food+Tech Connect

We’ve made it to the halfway point in the season. Kentucky is recuperating from six close, physical football games. The Cats are getting some well-deserved rest this weekend prior to jumping back into conference play against Mississippi State. Mark Stoops and his coaches are in the process of self-scouting which will reveal strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and other avenues for improvement.

This majority of this post was written in the preseason as we provided suggested statistical goals for certain categories. The three classifications utilized in this analysis were: Non-Negotiable Improvements, Advantage (Critical) Developments, and Sustains (Explanation below). The following is a comparison of expected goals vs. updated, current numbers through six games. Let’s take a look:

— Non-Negotiable Improvements are self-explanatory. For UK to enjoy a successful season it must address and immensely improve upon the listed statistical classifications.

— Advantage (Critical) Developments examine actions that were not listed in the upper half of the league but needs to show improvement in order for Kentucky to better its win/loss record from a year ago.

— Sustain is easy. No change, continue status quo, keep on keeping on, keep on truckin; you get the picture.

 

Non-Negotiable Improvements

Turnover Margin

Preseason Remarks-Recovered 8 fumbles, intercepted 13 passes for a +21 margin. Conversely, UK lost 16 fumbles, threw 12 interceptions for a total of -28. Combined, it formulated a -7 total turnover margin (14th or last in the SEC).

2017 Goal: This number needs to be in the +2 level at a minimum. Mid-pack in the league was a +3 a year ago. This digit’s reduction will assist most all other statistical areas of concern. Last year’s turnovers twisted potential blowout wins into nail biters (Vanderbilt) and potential close game victories into losses (Georgia).

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Kentucky is 2nd in the SEC with a +8 turnover margin.

Punting

Preseason Remarks: 201661 punts, 2335-yards, 38.3 yards per, allowed 125 return yards for a 2-yard average, kicked 5 touchbacks which equaled a total 34.6 net yards per punt (SEC-14th).

 2017 Goal: Again, just shooting for mid-level production, a 39-40-yard net punt average would greatly improve field position and ease strain on the defense. Strategic, inside the ten-yard line punt placement also needs immense upgrading. Regardless, punting has to drastically improve.

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Matt Panton is averaging 42.48 yards-per-punt and has placed opposing offenses inside its 20-yard line on many occasions.

Third Down Defense

 Preseason Remarks: 2016-Opponents converted 80 of 180 3rd down attempts for a 44.4% success percentage (SEC-13th)

 2017 Goal: 39% would provide Eddie Gran’s offense with more possessions which could translate to additional points. 39% ranks in the middle of the SEC. Plus, getting off the field has been a struggle for Stoops’ defense throughout his tenure. Personnel shortages have greatly impacted this deficiency. 3rd down defense improved down the stretch in 2016 which could act as a precursor for this number to drop even further.

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Allowing 33.71% conversion rate on 3rd down.

Rush Defense

Preseason Remarks: 2016-Opponents had 576 carries for 2966-yards, 25 TD’s. 5.1 yards per attempt and 228 yards per game ranked 12th in the SEC.

 2017 Goal: A realistic goal and more likely a blue lensed view would be for the Wildcats to allow 195-200 yards per game. Lack of proven defensive line depth significantly factors in this estimation. However, UK has an upper-level linebacker corps and secondary which includes the conference’s top two returning tacklers: LB Jordan Jones (109) and Safety Mike Edwards (100). I’m least confident in rush defense improvement than all other statistical projections within this study.

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Kentucky is ranked 3rd in the SEC by surrendering 97.17 rush-yards per game.

(more…)


WATCH: Kentucky basketball players describe their teammates’ weirdest habits

Photo by Quinn Foster | UK Athletics

Of all of the teams of the John Calipari era, this is probably the one we know the least about, so I spent my Media Day trying to fix that. In general, people don’t like talking about themselves but they love talking about others, so I asked each player what their teammates’ weirdest habits are. A few of my favorite answers:

— Nick Richards loves sitting in the dark

— Hamidou Diallo and Quade Green put mayonnaise on everything

— Shai is that person who makes a mixture of everything at the soda fountain (I bet he LOVES the Coke Freestyle machine)

As you can tell below, this is a really fun group:

 


There is a competition for Kentucky’s starting point guard spot

There is a competition for Kentucky’s starting point guard spot

It has long been assumed that Quade Green will be Kentucky’s starting point guard, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going to make him earn it.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s size impressed everyone who watched Kentucky’s televised pro day last weekend, so it should come as no surprise that he is in the mix for the job.

When asked, John Calipari said, “Quade and Shai right now are competing. It’s a great battle. I’m starting one and then I’ll flip them and start the other. I say ‘start,’ I’ll put them with different groups to watch them.”

“Hami could play it in a pinch,” Cal added, suggesting it could be a three-way competition. “We’re a good enough handling team that you could play basically without a point guard. But our teams have been centered on having guys out there that can really control the game somewhat. So I would say two. And they can play together, by the way, because Shai is big.”

In football they say, “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.” But for Kentucky’s point guard situation, I like the thought of Green and Gilgeous-Alexander competing for (and sharing) the job as they each bring different elements to the floor.


Calipari says he has not been contacted by FBI

College basketball coaches around the country are a little uneasy these days as the FBI looks into the sport’s connection with shoe companies and other shady business dealings that may be going on behind the scenes.

John Calipari and Kentucky are likely on the FBI’s radar — along with every other major program in the game — but he said he has not been contacted by any investigators at this time.

“I have no comment. I haven’t been contacted,” he said.

Calipari declined to say anything about the ongoing investigations because he is in the dark on the matter, but he acknowledged that it is “a black eye” on the sport.

If nothing else, the conversation provided a tense moment here at the press conference. Calipari said he wants to talk about his team, but Jerry Tipton, wanting to ask more about the FBI, told him, “This is a media day, not a coach day. I have the right to ask a question.”

Whoa.


Mark Zerof | USA Today

Doctors to take another look at Jarred Vanderbilt

Mark Zerof | USA Today

One of the hottest topics during John Calipari’s time in front of the media on Thursday was the latest on Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury.

A couple of weeks ago Calipari and his program announced that Vanderbilt would miss the first three months of the season with a left foot injury suffered in practice.

Now he’s saying they’re going to take another look in hopes of a better prognosis for Vanderbilt’s basketball future.

“We don’t know. They’re going to re-evaluate here in another week or so and figure out where it goes,” Calipari said. “It would be an unbelievable blessing for him or us if he was able to come back and play. We’ll let the doctors and experts deal with that. They wanted to look at it a little more before they make a decision.”

When asked how Vanderbilt’s absence will affect the team, Cal said the loss hurts because he planned to use Vanderbilt in full-court press situations and as the centerpiece of the zone.

“He have been our best shock blocker,” Cal later added.

Maybe they’ll get him back sooner than they originally thought.


LIVE STREAM: John Calipari at UK Basketball Media Day

LIVE STREAM: John Calipari at UK Basketball Media Day

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Tune in at 1 pm to hear what John Calipari has to say at UK Basketball Media Day 2017.

Discuss his comments amongst yourselves in the comments section below.

Mrs. Tyler created a fun game of BINGO for you to play too.


UK Freshmen Scout UK Freshmen: P.J. Washington

UK Freshmen Scout UK Freshmen: P.J. Washington

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Way back in August I was able to sit down with each member of the Kentucky Wildcats to talk about the college basketball season ahead, and part of my discussion with the new class of freshmen included a brief scouting report on each of their classmates.

Due to time constraints I was unable to get a complete report from all seven of the new Cats, but here’s what I heard about P.J. Washington when I asked his fellow freshmen to describe his game.


On P.J. Washington…

Quade Green: “Little Charles Barkley, I would call him. He can do everything too: push the ball; he’s a one-man fast break; he can shoot the mid-range; shoot the three; and he can out-strong you and rebound and dunk on you.”

Kevin Knox: “P.J. is one of the most versatile kids on the team. He can pretty much do anything: shoot, dribble. He’s real physical, big body; so he’ll definitely be really good for us this year. I expect him to do a lot of rebounding.

Jemarl Baker: “Strong. Big. Athletic. He can shoot as well.”

P.J. Washington: “He’s a bully. He just loves to win. He’s aggressive and he’ll do anything for his teammates.”


Check out KSR’s full preview story on Washington as part of our player-by-player interview series here.


UK Freshmen Scout UK Freshmen: Quade Green

UK Freshmen Scout UK Freshmen: Quade Green

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Way back in August I was able to sit down with each member of the Kentucky Wildcats to talk about the college basketball season ahead, and part of my discussion with the new class of freshmen included a brief scouting report on each of their classmates.

Due to time constraints I was unable to get a complete report from all seven of the new Cats, but here’s what I heard about Quade Green when I asked his fellow freshmen to describe his game.


On Quade Green…

Kevin Knox: “One of the vocal leaders — loves to talk; great sense of humor. I expect him to pretty much set up the whole pick-and-roll, a lot of alley oops, a lot of assists. I could see him average about 10 assists this year.”

Nick Richards: “Quade is really good. He’s one of the best point guards I’ve played with so far, in my whole entire career of basketball.”

P.J. Washington: “Quade, he’s short. He can shoot it. He likes to talk. He’s a general. He likes to run the team and he can play defense, too.”

Jemarl Baker: “Facilitator. Leader. He can score, hit shots, and everything.”

Quade Green: “I say he can shoot the mid-range; got a good floater game. He needs to get a little faster — strong and aggressive.”


Check out KSR’s full preview story on Green as part of our player-by-player interview series here.


UK Freshmen Scout UK Freshmen: Nick Richards

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Way back in August I was able to sit down with each member of the Kentucky Wildcats to talk about the college basketball season ahead, and part of my discussion with the new class of freshmen included a brief scouting report on each of their classmates.

Due to time constraints I was unable to get a complete report from all seven of the new Cats, but here’s what I heard about Nick Richards when I asked his fellow freshmen to describe his game.


On Nick Richards…

Quade Green: “Nick, he’s a bruiser down there. He rebounds, blocks shots and he do his job.”

Kevin Knox: “Nick is one of the fastest big men I’ve ever seen. He loves to run up and down the court. He’s really in shape. He can really jump high for his size — seven-foot. I think he’s got a high vertical — we’ll see in the combine — but he’s going to catch a lot of alley-oops and he’s one of the best defenders and loves to block shots. I expect him to get a lot of double-doubles this year too.”

P.J. Washington: “Nick blocks everything. He can dunk; he can run. It’s just great playing with him on your team.”

Jemarl Baker: “Athletic. Blocks shots. Rebounds. He’s really athletic. He can play.”


Check out KSR’s full preview story on Richards as part of our player-by-player interview series here.


One year later, Stephen Johnson is my quarterback.

One year later, Stephen Johnson is my quarterback.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, and a “memory” of one of the articles I shared exactly one year ago popped up.

“It’s not time to jump off the Stephen Johnson bandwagon… not yet at least,” it was titled.

Kentucky was coming off a close victory against Vanderbilt at the time, but questions surrounding the team’s starting quarterback were starting to mount.

You can read the entire article here, but to give you the Spark Notes version of his performance against the Commodores, it wasn’t great. He finished the day 10/24 for 49 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. He rushed for one touchdown and converted on a massive fourth-and-one to put the Wildcats in position to win, but he was putrid in the passing department. At least six times throughout the contest, the SEC Network commentators said “That ball was nearly picked off,” or some variation of the phrase, with one of Johnson’s misfires easily landing in the hands of a Commodore defender.

Drew Barker was out with a back injury, and at the time, it was uncertain when he would return to action. Johnson was struggling, and with talented freshman Gunnar Hoak impressing in the Spring Game, many fans felt it might be time to pull his redshirt and give him a shot.

The memory instantly brought me back to the day I wrote that article, and honestly, I didn’t know if I truly believed in what I said at the time.

I believed Johnson was far too skinny, inexperienced at the division-one level, and above all else, had an average arm. In his first three games as a Wildcat, he beat a mediocre New Mexico State team, the running backs carried the weight against South Carolina, and though the Wildcats showed fight, they lost to Alabama by four touchdowns. When he looked out of place against Vandy, I wanted to believe in him, but my doubts for Johnson as a long-term option outweighed the optimism.

But still, I wanted to trust the coaching staff, and give him a shot to right the ship.

And right the ship, he did.

Johnson led the Wildcats to seven regular-season victories, their most since 2009, a road win against rival Louisville and eventual Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson, and a New Year’s Eve bowl.

We saw a resurgence of excitement around Kentucky football that we haven’t seen since the Rich Brooks era. We saw a dominating run game develop before our very eyes, a reliable and effective deep ball, and most importantly, victories. Kentucky just learned to win football games.

This season, Kentucky is off to a 5-1 start with a legitimate shot to manage the most regular-season victories the program has seen since the 1970’s. At least one bowl projection has the Wildcats playing in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.

As for Johnson? He’s currently a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Award, the award given to the nation’s best quarterback at the end of the year.

On the field, Johnson has proven to be calm, efficient, and intelligent. He may not have the sexiest arm in the nation, and he’ll make some mistakes from time to time, but he always manages to bounce back.

In his career under center at Kentucky, Johnson is 12-5. In his last 16 regular-season games, he is 12-4, the best Kentucky record since 1977-78. He has helped lead the Wildcats to victories in eight of their last 10 home games, and six of their last 10 SEC games, the first time for both since the 2006-07 season.

Above all else, he’s a winner, and that’s something this football program hasn’t seen in quite some time.

Off the field, Johnson has been everything you can ask for out of the face of your football program, and then some.

As a child, Johnson was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, an adversity that helped shape his faith and the man he is today.

After winning his own battle with Tourette Syndrome, he’s now helping other children overcome theirs, including 10-year old Wildcat fanatic Samuel Doster.

Former UK quarterback, KSR writer/podcaster, and dear friend of mine Freddie Maggard had his heart ripped out on the final day of September when his 11-year old nephew, Dalton, was rushed to the ICU, and soon became mostly immobile and unresponsive. He was later diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

One day, Dalton was having fun at soccer and golf practice. Three days later, he was in a hospital bed with excruciating pain, diagnosed with a condition seen in just 10,000 cases a year, the first of its kind at the UK hospital in 13 years.

After hearing the heartbreaking news, Johnson showed up with Mark Stoops to give Dalton and his family whatever support they needed, a gesture that would be appreciated more than they ever realized.

In an interview with Jen Smith of the Herald-Leader, Maggard went in detail about the impact Johnson’s presence made on not only Dalton, but the family as a whole.

At one point, the Kentucky quarterback handed the 11-year old boy a signed football he and Coach Stoops brought along as a get-well gift. Dalton immediately made an effort to gesture to Johnson that he wanted to play catch, a moment that made the entire room fill with emotion.

“At that moment, it was just two kids wanting to play catch,” Maggard said. “I had to stand back because I was getting too emotional.”

“He kept getting in Dalton’s ear and telling him he’s a warrior, he’s going to get through this, he’s praying for him,” Maggard said. “And he talked about how he got through a tough time at about the same age and was just talking to him like they were having a conversation.

“I could see the care in his eyes, the empathy in his eyes.”

This wasn’t just a photo-op for retweets and likes. Video cameras weren’t rolling for the latest heartwarming TV feature. This wasn’t about the publicity. It was a child, a father, and a friend, coming together and fighting this battle together. It was bigger than football.

This goes without saying, but this kid is unlike anything we’ve seen in quite some time. He’s special.

One year later, be thankful the coaching staff stayed the course and allowed Johnson to find his groove.

One year later, Stephen Johnson is my quarterback, and I’m proud of it.

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR


Mark Zerof | USA Today

UK Freshmen Scout UK Freshmen: Kevin Knox

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Way back in August I was able to sit down with each member of the Kentucky Wildcats to talk about the college basketball season ahead, and part of my discussion with the new class of freshmen included a brief scouting report on each of their classmates.

Due to time constraints I was unable to get a complete report from all seven of the new Cats, but here’s what I heard about Kevin Knox when I asked his fellow freshmen to describe his game.


On Kevin Knox…

Quade Green: “I’ll say Kevin Knox is a good all-around player. He plays both ends of the floor. He’s a great catch-and-shoot shooter. He can put it on the floor. He can create his own shot.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: “Versatile.”

P.J. Washington: “He can shoot it. He’s athletic. He’s long. He can run in transition. He can play defense. He can rebound. He’s a great player.”

Jemarl Baker: “Kevin, he can shoot; knock down; he can defend; he’s long, tall — he can do everything.”

Kevin Knox: “My role is to come in and shoot the basketball, dribble the basketball; pretty much be an all-around type player; positionless. Be able to defend any position, play any position, and just come out and put the ball in the basket.”


Check out KSR’s full preview story on Knox as part of our player-by-player interview series here.


NCAA forms committee to fix college basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice

Today in “Will this actually help?”, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the formation of the Commission on College Basketball, a committee that will attempt to fix all of the problems in the sport in the wake of the bribery scandal.

The commission will be chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and composed of leaders from higher education, college sports, government and the business world, as well as accomplished former student-athletes. According to the NCAA’s press release, the commission will focus on three areas:

  • The relationship of the NCAA national office, member institutions, student-athletes and coaches with outside entities, including:
    • Apparel companies and other commercial entities, to establish an environment where they can support programs in a transparent way, but not become an inappropriate or distorting influence on the game, recruits or their families.
    • Nonscholastic basketball, with a focus on the appropriate involvement of college coaches and others.
    • Agents or advisors, with an emphasis on how students and their families can get legitimate advice without being taken advantage of, defrauded or risk their NCAA eligibility.
  • The NCAA’s relationship with the NBA, and the challenging effect the NBA’s so-called “one and done” rule has had on college basketball, including how the NCAA can change its own eligibility rules to address that dynamic.
  • Creating the right relationship between the universities and colleges of the NCAA and its national office to promote transparency and accountability. The commission will be asked to evaluate whether the appropriate degree of authority is vested in the current enforcement and eligibility processes, and whether the collaborative model provides the investigative tools, cultural incentives and structures to ensure exploitation and corruption cannot hide in college sports.

Here’s everybody on the commission, which will begin its work next month and deliver its recommendations on legislative, policy and structural changes to the boards for action at their April meetings:

Name Title/Organization
Chair
Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Former Provost, Stanford University
66th U.S. Secretary of State
Mary Sue Coleman
President
Association of American Universities
General Martin E. Dempsey, U.S. Army, Retired
Chairman
USA Basketball
Mark Emmert
President
National Collegiate Athletic Association
Jeremy Foley
Athletics Director Emeritus
University of Florida Athletic Association
Jefferey A. Hathaway
Vice President/Director of Athletics
Hofstra University
Grant Hill
Owner/Vice Chairman
Atlanta Hawks
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President
University of Notre Dame
Mike Montgomery
Retired Basketball Coach
Analyst, Pac-12 Networks & Westwood One Sports
G.P. “Bud” Peterson (ex officio)
President
Georgia Institute of Technology
David Robinson
Founder
Admiral Capital Group
Kathryn Ruemmler
Former White House Counsel
Partner, Latham & Watkins LLP
Gene Smith
Sr. Vice President & Wolfe Foundation Endowed
Athletics Director, Ohio State University
John Thompson III
Former Head Basketball Coach,
Georgetown University

Coincidentally, the issue of the NCAA making millions off players in exchange for a measly stipend is not on the charter. Kudos to the NCAA for trying, but I’m keeping my expectations for this pretty low.


Conservative Playcalling Complaints Lack Context

Conservative Playcalling Complaints Lack Context

There’s a broad, overarching complaint Kentucky football fans have for the offense: stop being so conservative.  While valid at times, the generalization lacks context.  In the heat of the moment, emotions cause fans to curse, but in the grand scheme of things you should not be so quick to chastise Eddie Gran.

Timely Mistakes Force Change

Simply put, it’s hard to be aggressive when you shoot yourself in the foot.  Early in the season, this mistake often came in the form of a bad snap.  On Saturday it came in the form of a holding penalty at the end of the first half.

With less than two minutes remaining in the half, UK went to the air for a 20-yard gain to Lynn Bowden.  A holding penalty pushed UK inside their own 20 for a second-and-19.  They could have continued to play aggressive in the air, but at great risk.  A sack would give Mizzou better field position and an incompletion would give them more time.

Behind the chains, Gran tried to take away as much time as possible.  Mizzou had the ball in their own territory with just 40 seconds to score.  The defense should be able to get UK to the half with a 20-7 lead.  Instead, they gave up a 58-yard touchdown pass.  That’s not on Gran for being “too conservative;” that’s on the defense for getting beat.

The moral of the story: it’s hard to be aggressive when you’re behind the chains.  When it’s second and short, the entire playbook is open to play aggressively.  It’s difficult to open up the playbook after a mistake, or you’ll run the risk of throwing more gas onto the fire.

Incremental Change

It takes time to correct mistakes in all walks of life.

To use a personal example, when I began writing I struggled with grammar, spelling and typographical mistakes.  Matt told me to fix it.  I proofread each post more vigorously.  It slowly got better, but like any human I still make mistakes.

Eddie Gran started the season by employing the style of offense that brought the Cats seven wins last year.  It took a game or two to realize that formula did not work for the 2017 team.

The Wildcat formation has been extensively dialed back.  It was used less than a handful of times against Missouri, albeit creatively.  If Benny Snell’s pass had three more yards, C.J. Conrad is walking into the end zone with a touchdown.  That’s a pretty aggressive play call by any standard.

Critics said, “The ball needs to be in Stephen Johnson’s hands more.”  That’s happened.  Johnson threw a career-high 36 passes against Missouri.  In each week of the 2017 season, Johnson has thrown more passes than the previous week.

Change happens slower than most would like, but rest assured that change is happening on the Kentucky offense.

Special Teams

If you want to see aggressive playcalling, just look at Special Teams.  It’s not as sexy as the other two phases of the game, nor does it receive the attention it deserves, but aggressive special teams calls have won the last two games for the Cats.

Dean Hood wanted to go for the block on a punt against EMU.  Mark Stoops was initially hesitant, but went with his gut and pulled the trigger.  The blocked punt led to a Kentucky score that put the game out of reach.

Against Missouri, Stoops went with his gut again on fourth down.  With the game tied, the Cats called a fake punt to Kash Daniel that got a first down and led to a field goal that gave Kentucky a three-point lead.

On the following drive, Missouri had an opportunity to tie the game with a 45-yard field goal.  Earlier in the day Lonnie Johnson ran into the kicker and negated a missed field goal, yet he received clearance to go for the block again.  This time it worked.  Playing aggressive paid off and that’s exactly what the Wildcats did.

Valid Grievances

After laying out my case against the “too conservative” criticism, there are still specific complaints that make sense.  They make sense because they’re specific, not sweeping generalizations.

Lynn Bowden had his best game as a Wildcat because he had opportunities to make plays.  He needs more of them and an easy way to do it is with jet sweeps.  To my recollection, UK has ran that play, but only once or twice and neither were to Bowden.

That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but this makes even less sense.  After a turnover, the Kentucky offense doesn’t ride the momentum created by the defense.  Instead of taking a shot to the end zone following a strip sack against Mizzou, Benny Snell ran it up the middle for no gain.  The drive eventually scored on a fade to Blake Bone, but why not try that on the first play?

As long as Kentucky has a football team, there will be criticism.  Some specifics warrant the criticism, but to generalize the 5-1 Wildcats as “too conservative” is misplaced judgment.