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Vaught's Views: Hope likes to talk about Eastern Kentucky football

August 18, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

If Danny Hope gets a chance to promote Eastern Kentucky University football, he's going to do it.

"I have not turned down a speaking engagement since I got the head job. I missed one telephone interview only because I got mixed up over whether I was calling back or the reporter was calling me. But if someone asks me to talk about our football team, I'm going to come talk," Hope said.

That's part of why he was here Sunday night to speak at the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic dinner at Danville Country Club sponsored by Popeyes. He wanted to encourage coaches and players from Danville, Garrard County, Dunbar and Manual - the four teams participating in the bowl - to watch his Colonels play.

However, he also had another reason for coming.

"I know what goes into an event like this," Hope said. "I respect high school coaches. I know what impact they have oon young men's lives and the hours it takes to coach. Anything I can do to help high school football, I want to do."

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He had three points to make

He had three distinct points to make during his talk:

* Decision-making for athletes has not changed, but the consequences of those decisions have.

Hope noted how years ago that players might be involved in a fracas off the field and then everyone would walk away. Now that same type incident often results in someone taking out a gun.

"You are under the microscope whether you are a coach or player. There are some things you might like to do that you just can't do," Hope said. "But the even bigger difference is that the consequences of doing some things have really changed over the last 20 years."

* Being average academically no longer is acceptable for NCAA athletes.

Hope explained that while a C is an average grade, the NCAA expects a player to make a B in a class to compensate for making a C in another class just to be a minimal qualifier and be able to play college football.

"It used to be you could have a 2.0 grade-point average and a high school diploma and play college football," Hope said. "You can't do that now.

"We are making a big push on our team academically. If you have the type of guys who know the difference between making a C or a B or between getting an A or a B, then those guys are more likely to line up right and execute the way you want. Those are the kids I want playing for me."

* Football is as much about desire and sacrifice as talent.

Hope said the best football players are often those who "put their heart and soul" into the sport. He said it is also getting harder to find players who will go all-out to succeed. "We live softer lives than we used to, and it's harder to find guys who really want to play hard all the time," Hope said.

He also said he had never been part of a championship team on the high school or collegiate level that did not have a close-knit atmosphere and that winning had to mean more to everyone than individual success.

Colonels open the season on Aug. 28

Hope's first Eastern team opens the season at Bowling Green Aug. 28. Even though Hope played for legendary Eastern coach Roy Kidd, who won 315 games and two Division I-AA titles before retiring after last season, he plans to use a more wide-open, diversified offense than Kidd. He has a talented returning running back in C.J. Hudson, but transfer quarterback Adam Ellis from Louisville could send a lot of passes toward former Boyle County standout Matt Miller.

"We want to have an entertaining offense, but also an offense that is productive," Hope said. "That's the plan."

Another part of the plan is also to take advantage of more opportunities like the one here Sunday to get to know in-state players better. When Hope left Louisville to take this job, he had been recruiting mainly in Dallas and Florida. He had little chance to get to know the state's best players last year before signing day. This season he plans to change that.

"We really want to recruit the state hard," Hope said.

He couldn't recruit here Sunday because of NCAA regulations, but he knows schools like those playing in the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic likely could produce several potential recruits and he wants those players to know his name.

"This bowl is a big deal across the state and is a shot in the arm to football in Kentucky," Hope said. "This is one of the most prestigious bowl games in the state now.

"Being part of this as a first-year coach is a big honor for me and I know what it has to mean to the coaches and players participating in the game. You don't forget experiences like this."

Or the college head coach who took the time to speak at a bowl banquet.

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