Off The Record: It's time for Wildcat fans to accept the coot - and the curse

November 29, 2004|HERB BROCK

Memo to the furious and frustrated Big Blue fools (like me) who continue to support the worst major college football program in the nation:

Steve Spurrier is going to South Carolina. He apparently will use that farm many of you said he allegedly had bought near Versailles to raise gamecocks in the off season.

Bill Parsells is going to continue to coach in the NFL. Even if he gets fired by the Dallas Cowboys, he will have plenty of money to live on because of the big profit he made when he sold that Versailles area farm to Spurrier.

Guy Morris is going to continue to coach at Baylor. It may seem wacky that Morris fled for Waco because Baylor is not that much better than UK but it at least he's getting the bucks as well as respect he didn't receive from UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart.


Bill Curry is going to continue to serve as a game day TV analyst. While we UK fans who endured the Curry era of revolving-door offensive coordinators whose offenses were offensive giggle at Curry analyzing real offenses on TV, this past season has been so bad some of us actually are starting to miss those two-yard passes on third and 15.

Jerry Claiborne is going to continue to rest in his Lexington grave plot. While we UK fans berated Claiborne for his wide tackle six sieve defense and his three yards in a cloud of dust offense and his 5-6 and 6-5 records, what we thought was mediocre, boring and .500 football looks exciting, imaginative and winning to us today.

Bear Bryant is going to remain in his Tuscaloosa grave plot. He will continue to have plenty of time on his hands - time he can check on that wristwatch he got from the University of Kentucky for doing a great job as football coach. But his work was not good enough for the ever-farsighted UK sports administration, which gave Adolph Rupp a big car for winning in a sport most people at the time didn't care about nearly as much as football.

In response to the Timex, Bryant left UK a thank-you card - a curse that was felt bigtime during this 2-9 season and will last until the wrecking ball finally, and mercifully, levels Commonwealth Stadium.

Folks, over the last 50 years of the post-Bryant heyday UK has tried just about every kind of coach and has never been able to re-create the powerhouse numbers recorded by the Bear. In fact, the Bryant regime ended a period of decades when UK won more often than it lost. Thanks to Bryant and most of his predecessors, UK - believe it or not - still has a winning overall record, but barely.

In the last five decades, UK has tried young up-and-comers like Fran Curci and Hal Mumme. It has hired head coaches and assistant coaches from prestigious football factories like Curry (Alabama) and John Ray (Notre Dame). It has employed unflashy but solid, straight-as-an-arrow, no-nonsense coaches like Claiborne, Blanton Collier and the current head man, Rich Brooks. All but one (Collier) has had a losing record. And two of them led UK to bowl games, then to probation (see the young up-and-comers who became down-and-outers).

UK athletics directors have had as good an aim at firing a pistol as most UK quarterbacks have had throwing a pass. The ADs have continuously shot themselves in the foot and the football program in the butt.

Example One of habitual UK athletics director misfirings: In addition to treating the Bear like an unwanted orphan, an AD rewarded Bryant's successor, Collier, the last UK coach to leave the school with a winning record (that was in 1961) by firing him. All he did was win more often than he lost and compiled a winning record (5-2-1) over then-archrival Tennessee. By the way, three years after Collier was canned at UK, he led the Cleveland Browns to an NFL title.

Example Two: Howard Schnellenberger, a man with an impeccable UK pedigree (he played at UK during the Bryant era) who led Miami to the national title in 1983 and was considered an offensive genius, wanted to serve as UK coach. Twice, he sought the position. Twice, UK picked people who ended up with losing records. Genius!

Example Three: This is minor but it underscores the ineptitude and poor decision-making of the athletic administration - naming stuff. Here we have Jerry Claiborne, who not only compiled a good record (by UK standards) and took two teams to bowl games but also won with true scholar athletes and without cheating. Claiborne had just recently died. UK wanted to name the field at Commonwealth after someone. So they picked former athletics director C.M. Newton, a basketball guy. Newton will forever be thanked by Wildcat roundball fans for bringing Rick Pitino to the basketball program but he also will be forever blasted by Wildcat gridiron fans for bringing Curry and Mumme to the football program. Oh, by the way, UK had to change the name of a street Newton had ordered called Hal Mumme pass after Newton's hire was fired.

Central Kentucky News Articles