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The Johnny Bright Incident’s Tuesday News and Views

As most of you know, I like to think of myself not only as your handsome and charming favorite blogger, but as a bit of a history and sports nerd, as well.  That is why it pains me to admit that today we’ll be marking the 58th anniversary of a major historical college football moment that I never knew even existed.  On this day in 1951, the “Johnny Bright Incident” occurred in Stillwater, Oklahoma in a game between Oklahoma A&M and Drake University.  At the time, the south was still a racial hotbed and Drake entered the game on a five-game winning streak behind their pre-season Heisman candidate Johnny Bright, an African-American quarterback/tailback who was leading the nation in total offense.  Bright had become the first black player to play against the Aggies in Stillwater (now Oklahoma State) two years before this game, but was still a controversial figure in Oklahoma.  Throughout the game, A&M students heard an assistant coach repeatedly screaming racial slurs and instructing his players to “get” Bright and people on the sideline heard A&M players declaring they would “get” him, as well.  Within the first seven minutes of the game, Bright was knocked unconscious three times by Aggie defensive lineman Wilbanks Smith, breaking Bright’s jaw on the last hit and forcing him to leave the game several plays later.  After the game, the above picture sequence was published in the Des Moines Register, showing Wilbanks taking a cheap shot well after Bright handed the ball off to his fullback, sparking a national incident.  The report would win a Pulitzer for Photography and would make the cover of Life magazine.  Drake and Bradley would withdraw from their conference under protest after both Oklahoma A&M and the Missouri Valley Conference took no disciplinary action against Smith.  The NCAA, however, began mandating the use of face masks following what became known as the “Johnny Bright Incident” and Oklahoma State would eventually issue an apology to Drake and Bright in 2005.  So, there you go.  An interesting tidbit to start your day.

Now that your head hurts from that history lesson, let’s get into some UK notes…

 – The big UK basketball news of the day wasthe love that the SEC media showed the Cats in the pre-season prognostications released today.  The Cats were not only picked as the favorites to win the East, but as the overwhelming favorites to win the entire conference.  While this is about as surprising as BTI coming around at 10am and being dead wrong about something, it’s still been awhile since the Cats have received such widespread confidence from those covering their team conference.  We aren’t the only ones noticing what a special thing we have going on here.

–  The most surprising point of the individual awards, though, was the interesting case of freshman phenom John Wall, who was voted on the All-SEC Second Team, despite being picked as the second choice of Player of the Year (behind Patrick Patterson).  No one immediately stepped up to defend their picking of Wall for the Second Team, but several people took to Twitter to criticize it.  Alan Cutler called it “dumb” and so did Gary Parrish of CBS, who has tabbed Wall as his pre-season National Player of the Year.  I would have to agree with both, but mostly because I want to be right at the end of the season.  You can excuse writers for now, I guess, since Wall is a freshman.  But, if anyone doesn’t think he’s one of the best five players in the conference once they’ve seen him play, they should be brought out to pasture and put down.

 – Speaking of The Faux Hawk and John Wall, Parrish posted on CBS tonight some pretty aggressive words from Kansas’ Sherron Collins about Kentucky’s point guard.  When asked about what he thought about Parrish picking Wall as the top point guard in the country, Collins said “He’s coming out of high school with a lot of hype. But I’m the old guy, and I ain’t gonna let no young boy get the best of me.”  When Parrish said it would be a nice matchup in the NCAA Championship Game, Collins concurred, saying “I’d like to play him”.  Oh boy.   

 – On the football front, Rich Brooks was a lot more clear about the quarterback situation during today’s press conference than at any point last week, as he announced that Morgan Newton would start against Louisiana-Monroe Saturday, with Will Fidler likely seeing some first half snaps.  Brooks said that it was “unfair” to Fidler after the way he stepped up in the fourth quarter against Auburn, but feels more comfortable bringing a veteran off of the bench.  While I think he’s made the right decision, I find the logic puzzling.  Personally, I’d prefer him to channel his inner Denny Green and say he’s playing to win the game with a quarterback with much more upside, mobility and zip on the ball, but that’s not really Brooks’ style.  But, it hasn’t failed to this point yet, I guess.

 – This isn’t exactly breaking news, but I don’t think we posted it here.  Louisville basketball players Terrence Jennings and Jerry Smith reached a plea deal on their charges of resisting arrests.  The pair each received one year probation and 40 hours of community service for the misdemeanor charges, meaning that they’ll likely finish their Louisville careers with as many credit hours as community service hours.  Boom!  Roasted!

– And this is just because it makes me smile.

Article written by Thomas Beisner