By - Ira D. Combs
Director / Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
First of all I must make note of the tour / caravan that Coach Calipari just recently took with the NCAA championship trophy across the Commonwealth which once again shows the blindly loyal bonding and love affair with him and Big Blue Nation , it never ceases to amaze me how this man has grasp this so difficult job and continues to masterfully perform his duties in the process without exposing any outwardly pressure . He has developed a unique passion for leading this program that I just can't even put into words to explain it and appears content on setting records into the future that many dared to even talk about at any time in recent memory across college basketball .
I happen to be in town at Hazard , Ky. when he came thru on his stop and I can honestly tell you that I'm old enough to have seen three President's come thru eastern ky. in my time here , the Kennedy's come thru Hazard in the 60's on a political tour of Appalachia and Richard Nixon for a ceremony in naming an athletic center after him and Bill Clinton made an appearance beginning with his second term to promote small town USA and it's future possibilities .
I can't give you an accurate count of those in attendance for Coach Cal's recent appearance but trust me their were multitudes of people that didn't even get within the length of a football field of him let alone get his autograph or picture taken with him . Far more folks turned out for this UK basketball coach than any of the three setting president's of the USA .
But as the old saying goes he had a better year this year than any of the three President's at any point during their terms in the White House .
Here we go again into the spring and summer off season of UK football talk show and internet chat line debates and record prognosticating , you know , those astute individuals who say I can guarantee a season of 4 - 8 , 7 - 5 , 3 - 9 , 6 - 6 , and yes you've always got several eternal optimist who has those unique crystal balls that can see and justify 8 - 4 all the way up to the dream season of 10 - 2 , yes folks , they're out there you've just got to pick the right evening and the right talk show or internet site but trust me there are all types out their .
If that doesn't suit your fancy for this off season you've always got the men's basketball recruiting website bonanzas like www.scout.com , www.rivals.com or my favorite www.catspause.com and their 24/7 service . These website's all have up to the minute info from all across the nation and may be more information driven now with the new NCAA evaluating periods for the coaches in April and May to go along with the usual ones in July .
However , this year we have a tinkle of competitive sporting game life left for Big Blue Nation with the UK Bat Cats .
Kentucky Baseball In Midst Of Possible Historic Season But It's Been A Battle In Past Years
As we drift thru this special spring of UK baseball I can't help but remember sitting out at the old baseball stadium on Cooper Drive during the late 70's , 80's , and early 90's before it was renovated and upgraded to a small degree and named after UK Hall of Fame basketball player and A.D. Cliff Hagan .
Keith Madison was struggling to get the Wildcat baseball program jump started by having fund raisers like high school programs with players and coaches selling Cats Pause basketball yearbooks then fighting thru cold and wet springs with players serving as the grounds crew squeezing his limited budget while the rest of the SEC was spending more money on their baseball programs than both men's and women's basketball combined but Madison was never one to go down without a fight . He persevered and marched on as much as any coach ever on campus in any sport until he finally had some moderate success before he drifted off into the sunset .
I'm told by veteran Wildcat baseball insider's that early in Madison's coaching tenure the baseball coaching position at UK was thought of so lightly by the UKAA that Madison's salary was listed as a part time employee and paid accordingly .
I wasn't a close personal friend of Keith Madison but I did develop a cordial relationship with him while helping the various UK basketball coaches with their summer camps since his office was in Memorial Coliseum and right across from Mr. Wildcats ( Bill Keightley ) . Madison was in my opinion one of the finest men I've ever met in my life and pretty sharp on the baseball diamond as well especially with the very limited resources he was provided .
I can't help but think wherever he is at today he is very proud of this Wildcat baseball team and of what Gary Henderson is accomplishing with it and if lightning finally strikes and the Cats make it to the College World Series then Madison can step back and say he started it all many years ago and the fruits of his labor have finally paid off .
Kentucky baseball has been the talk of the college baseball world so far this season and several times on the ESPN thursday night telecast the announcers have mentioned the Cats exploits but this thursday night the nation and world can see the Kentucky baseball team in live action when Gary Henderson pits his team against the Florida Gators live on ESPNU at 7:00 o'clock at Cliff Hagan Stadium so BBN it's time for you to show your true love for UK athletics in general and not just the tradition rich UK basketball team .
Yes , Big Blue Nation you can be just as intimidating at Cliff Hagan Stadium as you can at Rupp Arena and with this years obvious prospect of hosting possibly both the 1st round and the super regional's round you could be the difference in the UK baseball program making their first ever appearance in the college World Series in Omaha , Nebraska so it's time to show your love for UK baseball and come out to the old ball yard on Cooper Drive just feet away from the Nutter Football Training Center this weekend and during the NCAA post season run .
Important Decisions To Be Made By SEC Administrators In May
Later this month the annual SEC meetings will take place down in Destin , Florida that is unless SEC commissioner Mike Slive has found another more scenic and tropical setting for those tireless days spent in the board room that always eventually end up on the golf course , anyway , several important topics are to be discussed and reportedly one final decision is to be made on the future scheduling rotation for SEC football teams . This fall's 2012 schedule is set but only this fall .
In a recent talk show interview with UK football media relations director , Tony Neely , we found out that it was being reported across the conference that coaches and A.D.'s had bonded so to speak in that the nine game conference schedule just wasn't as desirable as originally thought . The SEC coaches of course would much rather play another non conference game no matter what the skill and talent level would be of the opponent ( in UK's case I'm sure were talking Mid American , Sun Belt , or maybe renew the Indiana game ) the athletic directors angle was that a nine game schedule puts each school with an odd number of home games every other year like 4 away 5 home one year then flipped the next and most A.D.'s agreed without a minimum of a seven game home schedule each year with each school it would take a hit every other year financially .
So my crystal ball says to expect for the conference to carry on with an eight game SEC schedule and tweak it slightly from past years in who rotates on and off from the other division and to expect the UK - UL series to survive and move on into the future with the annual controversy of when to play it to resurface with another dagger from the Lex. Herald - Leader and Courier Journal surely to land in UK's back .
Congratulations to Winston Guy and Danny Trevathan on getting drafted into the NFL . Guy was picked by the Seattle Supersonics in the 6th round and just a few picks later in the 6th round the Denver Broncos took Danny Trevathan . At last count the Broncos now have five former UK players on their roster : Wesley Woodyard was elected last year as a captain by the Bronco players and coaching staff , Jeremy Jarmon also plays as a rotating DL and Jacob Tamme was picked up as a free agent in the off season courtesy of Peyton Manning's advice to Bronco officials and now Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy are Broncos .
In case your wondering about a possible reunion between these former Wildcat pig skin stars now turned Denver Broncos and Big Blue Nation it could happen this coming season on (Sun.) Nov. 4th in Cincinnati , Ohio when the Broncos make a visit to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Bengals of Marvin Lewis .
I'm betting the grid iron Cats will get about the same reception from the Bengals Ohio fan base as Coach Cal and his basketball contingent got from the Reds Ohio fan base last tuesday .
Just had to bring that up but seriously I'm told by Reds officials at the game that Coach Cal did get a rather warm reception from most of the folks in attendance and Coach Cal himself was especially pleased with the Reds invitation and the manner he was treated by manager Dusty Baker and the entire Reds organization on their visit to GABP