After a weekend of depression, I wanted to get the new week started with one of my favorite UK-related pictures ever. The above shot was taken at the Barnstable Brown party this year and showcases four UK Legends (and one white guy behind them with passion) singing along to “End of the Road” with the three remaining members of Boyz II Men. When they performed at the event, all were excited, but I was shocked to see just how happy their crooning sounds made Cobb, Cousins, Patterson and Wall. Well if they were happy before, then they are surely happy now as Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman turns 38 today. The member of the group that once had the highest selling single in music history is still singing with his (slightly plumper) bandmates and anytime they break into “I’ll Make Love to You” or “Motown Philly”, I challenge you not to get excited. While Boyz II Men spawned many imitators (none better than Shai…”The very first time that I saw your brown eyes…your lips said hello and I said hi”), none could equal Michael Bivins’s creation and they remain legends of the music scene. Don’t believe me? Just ask Randall Cobb.
Some notes on the weekend:
— At this point, I almost find analyzing the games to be a wasted effort. The reality is that Kentucky is not playing well at any position and with the exception of a couple of players who have given otherworldly efforts (I am looking at you Danny Trevathan), there have been faults everywhere. The much greater issue than any one game right now is the overall pessimism/resignation that has completely overtaken the fan base. At this point the team has almost no defenders who truly believe that success this year is coming and only a select few remain optimistic about the program’s future going forward. For the first time in six years, the Cats looked to have lost their ability to compete and the fans have slowly lost their ability to care. The crowd on Saturday night was decent as the game began, but most abandoned ship early, with many suggesting that they will not return. I can’t tell you how many fans have said to me some form of “I have been going X amount of years in a row, but I am done until this season ends.” Fans who used to live and breathe UK football (and yes, some did exist) are now making plans for Saturdays that used to be sacred. We can all grumble about how we got to this point, or where we go from here, but a reality needs to be accepted by all. Joker Phillips has completely lost the fans.
— So the question now becomes, where do we go from here. Mitch Barnhart came off somewhat defiant before Saturday’s game, saying that he is ignoring fan emails and phone calls that are harshly critical and that he is focused on attempting to improve the program. I think Mitch is being somewhat unfairly blasted for this comment, as I am sure he meant comments of a vulgar/hyper-critical nature (of which the internet can breed exponentially…take a look at my email/comment box one day if you dont believe me). But with that said, I think it is fair to say that the UK administration/coaches need to come to grips with where they are from a PR standpoint at this time. The fans have given up on the season, and more troubling, some are becoming disinterested in the program going forward. It is never fun to get criticism, but it is much worse to have your fans become apathetic. Kentucky football has been a clear #2 at UK for the past few years, but it has been a #2 that people cared about. Now that caring is starting to dissipate and there needs to be some acknowledgement from UK and its coaches of that fact. This week is the time to do it and it will be interesting to see if it happens.
— With all of that said however, the one place UK football is still succeeding is on the recruiting trail. In maybe the biggest upset of the weekend, Kentucky got commitments from two players that were among the program’s top ten targets of the year. After attending the UK-Florida game, LB Kadeem Thomas and RB Shadrach Thornton both committed to play for Kentucky next year. Thomas is a LB that was at the top of UK’s wish list and he picked UK over offers from Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech and Illinois. Thornton is a RB with a ton of upside who picked UK over Georgia Tech, NC State and Vandy. Both guys saw the game (and presumably the potential playing time) and made the decision to pull the trigger. And both young men said fan support was part of the reason for the decision. While the results on the field may leave a lot to be desired, you do have to give Tee Martin and Mike Summers (the guys primarily responsible for the recruiting) a ton of credit for being able to AS OF NOW keep together what would be the deepest recruiting class that UK has yet assembled.
— While football is clearly an issue for all, it bears remembering that basketball is coming down the pike. This week will see the release of a set of preseason interviews we did with all the players for KSTV and will begin full-scale coverage of the team. Some big news slipped out on Saturday when top 2013 PF Chris Walker announced he will make a decision on November 15 as to his future school. Walker is a kid whose recruitment has been somewhat strange. He at one time favored UK heavily, then complained he didnt have an official offer, but in recent weeks has been tweeting out shouts to the Big Blue Nation nearly every day. His decision could be the first in a series that will potentially see Kentucky get its most loaded class ever in 2013. I know that is a strong statement, but UK is currently in the top 4 with seven of the top nine players in the class and likely in the top 2 with four of the top six. Chris Walker looks to be the first to pull the trigger, but with many in the 2013 class suggesting they will decide early, you could have a scenario where Calipari comes close to filling the 2012 and 2013 classes this Spring. Not a bad place to be in whatsoever.
This week is going to be a lot of fun around the KSR parts. We have our week of radio and tv, followed by a special ONE HOUR KSTV basketball preseason special debuting on Saturday. And Drew Franklin will be reporting live from BBM campout beginning on Wednesday, where he will spend four straight days blogging without a shower or a tent. Plus, we are doing the radio show live from BBM campout on Friday morning. It is a full week of fun, and then we play #1 LSU on Saturday. I can feel Les Miles boots shaking from here…