By - Ira D. Combs
Director / Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
The exact starting point is debatable but you could make a case for the huge Matt Roark led football win against Tennessee last November as the true starting point .
Regardless of where the starting point was as we head down the home stretch of the 2011 - 2012 college sports season the UK baseball , softball , and tennis teams are alive and well with aspirations of duplicating what Coach Cal and Coach Mitchell's basketball programs did coming out of the winter sports seasons .
Gary Henderson's Bat Cats have received the most love from the statewide media contingent the past 1 1/2 months since Coach Cal's first successful NCAA championship came to fruition and rightfully so . The Wildcats new Diamond heroes have proved every pre season college baseball pollster terribly and foolishly incompetent . Most predicted Henderson's squad to finish in the basement of the extremely tough SEC , yet , as we head into the final weekend of the regular season they stand at the top of the conference standings by 1/2 game ahead of South Carolina and LSU who play each other this coming weekend while UK finishes up at Mississippi State with a three game series and their fate rest in their own hands .
UK's sweep of Alabama this past weekend virtually assures them of hosting an NCAA 1st round regional at Cliff Hagan Stadium when the NCAA bids come out week after next .
Barring a complete meltdown at Mississippi State and in the SEC tourney the Bat Cats by all rights should be in a serious hunt to host a super regional since they have been ranked in the top 10 for the past eight weeks and was anywhere from # 1 to # 5 in several different college baseball polls for most of April . Hosting a super regional is a huge advantage in trying to make that trek to the College World Series in Omaha , Nebraska come to a reality .
It looks extremely bright for the UK baseball program's immediate future as well with the team losing only three seniors to graduation and returning virtually the entire starting pitching rotation as well as six of the top eight hitters in the line up . Also , according to the Baseball America Magazine Henderson has recruited a top 10 class of incoming freshman for this fall .
UK Softball & Tennis Finishing Strong
While Rachel Lawson's softball program fell a little short of what was expected for the regular season finishing a little closer to 500 than what they had hoped the team did finish strong down the stretch with big wins against SEC rival LSU and did qualify for a bid to play in the NCAA post season tournament and was placed in the Louisville regional this coming weekend matched up against Michigan friday in the opening round game at 4:00 o'clock which will be televised live on ESPN 2 . Louisville will play Valpariso in the lower bracket game at 7:00 o'clock also on ESPN 2 then the two winners and two losers will play on saturday at 1:00 and 3:30 respectively with the finals taking place on sunday . It is a double elimination tournament so their could be only one game sunday if the winners bracket winner doesn't lose the 1:00 o'clock game that day .
Long time successful UK tennis coach Dennis Emery just won another SEC men's championship and heads south to Georgia this weekend for the first weekend of NCAA tournament play .
Former UK Unforgettable Sean Woods Moves Up Coaching Ladder
Sean Woods , one of the historic UK Unforgettables who was directly involved in what many consider to be the most painful Wildcat basketball loss on record has moved up the NCAA coaching ladder from Low Div. 1 Mississippi Valley State to what many consider an up and coming Mid Major program in Morehead State University of the Ohio Valley Conference .
Woods reportedly beat out several strong candidates that were assistants at successful Div. 1 programs by turning a long time dormant program at Mississippi Valley into one of this past years big NCAA college basketball surprises when he overcame a 1 - 11 record at the beginning of the season and won both his conference regular season and tournament titles qualifying his team for the NCAA tournament . Woods lead his troops thru a 13 game road gauntlet of Div. 1 - A buyout games to start the season and then turned it on down the 2nd semester stretch and now is reaping the rewards from his trials and tribulations of many hours of hard work .
Many rumors have circulated throughout the bluegrass of those college basketball inner circles who supposedly have influence in the hiring process but sources extremely close to the hiring process at MSU have told us at www.combsbrothersonkysports.com that Woods past experiences with the business community in central ky. after his graduation at UK helped in the hiring process as much as his recent success on the floor at Mississippi Valley State .
Hopefully , you’re an educated , astute , and long time follower of UK and MSU athletics then you can decipher that previous remark , not all sources can be revealed .
Regardless of how the coaching job was attained , it's very gratifying to see a young coach persevere thru hard times and get an opportunity after so many tireless hours of work .
First SEC Spring Meetings With All Members
When the SEC administrators and coaches meet later this month in Destin , Fla. for their annual meetings on the state of college athletics across the south it will be the first official meeting of the New South or SEC with all 14 members in attendance and eligible to vote on any new referendums .
While visiting with a high ranking member of the media relations department and the UKAA last weekend covering the UK - Alabama baseball series I learned that the rumor still circulating in some parts of the conference that the football teams were going to a 9 game conference schedule is absolutely not true and many SEC insiders don't know how it ever got started .. According to my UK media relations source South Carolina actually brought the subject up about this time a year ago and it was shot down immediately by all 11 members at that time . Reportedly , the TV people ( ESPN and CBS ) was behind the scenes trying to lobby some schools for the 9 game schedule because two SEC teams playing each other any saturday of the season is much more attractive to the viewing audience than say LSU - Louisiana Tech or Florida - Fla. International or Tennessee - UAB .
That old saying of pick and choose your battles , well , the SEC football coaching fraternity bonded and choose this fight along with the A.D.'s in their corner as well and TV didn't win this battle . Seems as though the A.D.'s thought an odd number of home games every other year would be murder financially for all schools especially the lower level budgeted schools . The only thing on the agenda football wise that I was told would be discussed is how to tweak the inner conference 8 game schedule between the east and west divisions and how the rotation would be set for the future past this fall which is already set .
Also , the new SEC basketball conference schedule is to be decided upon at the meetings for this coming year and the long range future as well . One possible item that may be discussed I'm told is a possible tweaking of the present post season SEC men's basketball conference tournament site rotation . I'm told that St. Louis and possibly Memphis may be wanting to make a bid on hosting the men's tournament , I'm betting the folks from Missouri and Arkansas are behind that one .
That old time southern good ole boy network ( football people anti UK ) can play it wherever they want to , BBN will be their in force .
Raise your hand if you think those same people who make those decisions would ever consider letting The Yum Center host this tournament , I don't see any hands .