A Cats fan argues against declaring UK a ‘basketball school’

Quick hitters from the “Civil War”:

21. UK is definitely a “basketball school”? Last week’s John Calipari-initiated debate over what the University of Kentucky’s proper sports identity/branding should be brought an interesting, against-the-grain theory from Lexington’s Melissa Brown.

20. “Always been a football school.” According to Brown, the resilience of UK’s football fan support across many decades of subpar-to-mediocre on-the-field results proves that Kentucky has always been, at heart, a football school.

19. Would UK basketball fans show the same loyalty? “(I am) not wishing the same fate for (Wildcats) basketball,” Brown writes. “But should (Kentucky basketball teams) continually win only 35% of their games, would the fans still support the team (like UK football fans have)?”

18. My two cents, I think pigeonholing the identity of a high-level SEC athletics department of the type Mitch Barnhart has built at UK to only one sport is dumb. But Brown shaped the “football school” vs. “basketball school” debate in a way I thought was interesting.

17. Lucas Padgett, The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Kentucky offensive lineman, the son of ex-UK sports standouts Scott Padgett (men’s basketball) and Cynthia Dozier Padgett (volleyball), is in his second season as a Wildcats football walk-on.

16. Living the dream, Having grown up envisioning himself following in the footsteps of his parents, Lucas Padgett says the reality of being a UK athlete has so far lived up to his hopes. “It’s been amazing,” he says. “I’ve loved every minute, even the hard times. I love the atmosphere, love the team, especially the o-line. It’s a great group.”

15. Keeping up with the Padgetts, Scott Padgett is now an assistant men’s hoops coach at Manhattan working for his former UK teammate Steve Masiello. Logan Padgett, Scott and Cynthia Padgett’s oldest child, is a junior swingman on the Jaspers’ roster.

14. Key for the Cats, I think one position will tell the tale for Mark Stoops and troops in 2022. Tell me now how Kentucky’s new starting offensive tackles play this year, and I would be able to tell you how the Wildcats season will fare.

13. John Schlarman, In 2016, the year the Mark Stoops coaching era turned in a positive direction, the Kentucky offensive line coach alternated nine players in his regular rotation.

12. Zach Yenser, The new UK offensive line coach, who coached as a graduate assistant with Schlarman at Troy in 2007, says he is open to a similarly large rotation in 2022. “If I can play eight, I will play eight. I would love to,” Yenser says. “The fine line is finding guys who are ready to compete every Saturday and ready to roll.”

11. “Schlarman strong.” Yenser says his prior tie to Schlarman, who died from cancer in 2020, is an extra motivation every day. “You know you want to do a good job for John,” Yenser says.

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Kentucky football fans had a long history of supporting the Wildcats program even when the payoff on their emotional investment was not great in terms of victories. Alex Slitz Herald-Leader File Photo

10. Jordan Robinson, Kentucky’s 6-4, 202-pound sophomore cornerback has one of the most unique backgrounds of any player in the SEC. Robinson transferred to UK from NCAA Division II Livingstone College as a scholarship player.

9. SEC vs. D-II, I asked Robinson how going through a college football Media Day at an SEC school such as Kentucky compared to what he had experienced as a freshman at Livingstone College in North Carolina. “We didn’t have a Media Day at Livingstone,” Robinson said.

8. Antonio Reeves, After the Illinois State transfer averaged 17 points and made 14 of 27 three-point shots in the four-game UK men’s basketball exhibition tour in the Bahamas, it certainly appears Kentucky made very wise use of the portal.

7. Adou Thiero, The still-growing, still-developing 6-6 freshman wing is one of the more intriguing prospects Kentucky men’s hoops has signed in eons.

6. Big Ten Billions, The seven-year, $8 billion media rights agreement that the Big Ten announced Thursday will, starting in 2023, put football games from that conference on every Saturday on Fox at noon, CBS at 3:30 pm and NBC during prime time.

5. Complete split with ESPN, As had been previously reported, the new Big Ten deal means a divorce with the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

4. Bad for basketball? With all its exposure on old-line TV networks, I think Big Ten football is a big winner in the new contract. But I think not being on ESPN will hurt Big Ten hoops.

3. Battle lines drawn, Moving forward, big-time college sports will be a struggle between two media-conference power blocs: It is the SEC/ESPN vs. the Big Ten/Fox.

2. Greg Sankey, The SEC commissioner has suggested looking at possible changes to the NCAA Tournament structure, including the number of teams invited. Put me down as a hard no on that.

1. Dick Vitale. The ebullient ESPN college hoops analyst announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he is cancer free. Vitale had been diagnosed with cancer twice in the past year, first with melanoma last August, then with lymphoma in October.

Dickie V’s latest news is, to coin a phrase, Awesome with a capital A.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996–97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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