You all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean-spirited, miserly old man who despises Christmas and all things which give people happiness. Scrooge is the primary character in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a novella released on this date in 1843. It’s a tale of the hardships faced by London’s poor, and penny-pinching, grumpy ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge, who eventually opens his heart after being confronted by three Christmas spirits: Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The story has been credited with restoring the holiday spirit in Britain and America, and it was so so famous, the word “scrooge” has come to define a miserly person, even in non-English speaking countries. A Christmas Carol remains popular today and has never been out of print; it has been adapted to film, stage, opera, and other media numerous times.
Dickens, the creator of the cold-hearted Christmas villain, described Ebenezer Scrooge best in this passage from A Christmas Carol: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and he spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.” The English author added, “A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”
He’s like the Jerry Tipton of holiday cheer, basically.
Today, Scrooge and A Christmas Carol turn 169 years old. Take a second to appreciate it, whenever you aren’t watching Christmas Vacation, of course.
It’s another long week for fans of Kentucky basketball, but news continues to roll out from around the football program. Tuesday’s biggest story came from right here inside the Kentucky Sports Radio walls, when UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart joined Matt Jones in studio for an exclusive radio interview. Barnhart was very candid in discussing the ins and outs of the Mark Stoops hire and what he expects for the future of Kentucky football. Here are five things that stood out to me from the interview:
1.) The decision for change was made after the loss to Vanderbilt.
Mitch called himself an eternal optimist and said he wanted things to work out with Joker Phillips at the helm, but the disintegration of the fan support was discouraging and hard to manage. He called the Vanderbilt game one that was very difficult to watch and he knew it would be very difficult to overcome. “It became apparent (after the 40-0 home loss to Vanderbilt) that we were not going to get to a spot where we wanted to get to emotionally,” he said. “We had to move on.”
2.) Bobby Petrino was never an option.
The pressure was certainly on Mitch Barnhart to consider hiring Bobby Petrino, but he said it was not a path he was ready to go down. Barnhart called Petrino a heck of a football coach and wished him well at Western, but didn’t feel like the University of Kentucky was the place to give Petrino a second chance. “It was never something that was in the conversation, contrary to all the reports out there,” he said.
3.) Defensive improvement was a primary focus of the hiring process.
Improving the defense is a priority for Kentucky to climb in the SEC. Barnhart acknowledged that UK was giving up 30 points per game and showing no signs of improving. He knows the Wildcats will never be in the championship conversation, or make a respectable bowl game, with a defensive giving up that many points in the Southeastern Conference. “You have no shot if you can’t stop somebody,” he said. “You will not continually outscore people in this league. At the end of the day, you have to play some defense.”
4.) He wanted someone who genuinely wanted the UK job.
Barnhart said, “There was no doubt in my mind, from the get-go, this was a job Mark had focused on and he wanted to be a part of the University of Kentucky. It wasn’t ‘Hey, I’m going to go talk to six schools and you’re one of them’ — it was ‘You’re the school I’m focused on’ and that was important to us.”
He didn’t want someone who was going to play games with Kentucky. He felt some people were playing the field and those names were removed from consideration. Only those with genuine interest in UK made the final list of candidates.
5.) Barnhart did it his way.
No leaks. Only trust a handful of people. Ignore the critics. Ignore the haters.
“I don’t worry about what critics say about me.”
The football fun didn’t stop in the morning with Mitch Barnhart; new offensive coordinator Neal Brown was formally introduced to the Lexington media in a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Brown spoke of his excitement to join Stoops’ staff in Lexington and the personal stake he has in improving the football program. He said, “My whole family is UK fans. They grew up Kentucky fans. They’ve had a lot of season tickets. They’re UK fans. Whether I’m here or not, they’re UK fans.” Brown, of course, is a Danville native and former wide receiver at Kentucky.
Brown also addressed Kentucky’s quarterback situation and the three-way competition for the starting spot under center. He expects a tough competition that’ll last through the spring and possibly even into training camp in the fall.
“It’s a good problem. It’s really not a (problem). It’s a good situation,” he said. “We’ve got three guys that can play quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. How we’re going to handle that is, it’s going to be an open competition.”
Whoever wins the job, whether it be Max Smith, Patrick Towles or Jalen Whitlow, can expect a fun and promising career in Brown’s Air Raid 2.0 offense.
We also learned of two new UK football staff members on Tuesday: Jimmy Brumbaugh and Frank Buffano. Brumbaugh, a former All-SEC defensive tackle at Auburn, will coach Kentucky’s defensive line. Buffano will take over as director of football operations after three seasons as linebackers coach at Youngstown State.
Two fun facts:
— Buffano is an old friend of Stoops and a Cardinal Mooney graduate.
— Brumbaugh played for the Birmingham Bolts in the XFL.
Ever wondered where Billy Gillispie’s former UK recruits are these days? KSR has looked into it a couple times since Clyde left Lexington, and CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman — the man who doesn’t want your free drinks at the Hooters in Augusta — did it again on Tuesday. Apparently, the Konner Tucker Band missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer against UNLV on Monday night with Billy Gillispie watching on from the stands. Click here to see what everyone else is up to.
Kentucky basketball’s first semester grades are final and eight Wildcats posted a B average or better in the fall. The team’s overall GPA is nearly a 3.1 for the semester.
Midterm grades are in. The team had nearly a 3.1 grade-point average with eight guys posting a B average or better.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 18, 2012
This tweet is going on the Craft Center’s Gatorade refrigerator!
Keep voting for Kentucky to be featured on the cover of NCAA Football ’14. It will be one of the most ridiculous accomplishments from Big Blue Nation’s online presence, if we can pull it off.
That’ll do it for now. Check back with us tomorrow when we find out who has been naughty and nice this holiday season.