The My Old Kaintuckee Bracket Challenge

It’s that time of year! Let’s cheer on the Kentucky Wildcats (and the Kaintuckeean) by joining the Kaintuckeean’s “My Old Kaintuckee Bracket” Challenge!

Just click here and fill out a bracket before the tournament’s first tipoff.

The winner of this year’s challenge will win a year’s worth of bragging rights plus an autographed copy of my book – Lost Lexington, Kentucky.

Help spread the word by forwarding this email to friends and sharing around the web!

Have fun and Go Cats!

The Remarkable Run of UK’s Football Program … in 1950

1950-51 Kentucky Wildcats. U. of Ky. Libraries.

With Kentucky football on the brink of 5-1 needing a home win against Louisiana-Monroe tomorrow for the best record since 2007, times feel good with Kentucky football.

Historically, that isn’t an emotion we’ve gotten to ride very often.

But if you go back a little over half a century, you’ll find the greatest year for athletics at the University of Kentucky.

Bear Bryant, ca. 1950. U. of Ky. Libraries.

The familiar part of the
story is tied, of course, to basketball. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the UK Wildcats defeated Kansas State’s squad in the NCAA finals. It was the third tourney win for Adolph Rupp’s team which finished its season with a 32-2 record.

But on the gridiron, Bear Bryant’s Wildcats fought out a 10-1 record during the regular season and were destined for a Sugar Bowl matchup against the the University of Oklahoma.

In those days, final football national media rankings were determined prior to the bowl seasonAs a result, the national championship nod was given to the Oklahoma Sooners. But the Wildcats wouldn’t cooperate during on New Years Day 1951 in New Orleans. The following video clip from the news reel contains highlight from the matchup.

Vito Parilli passes the football during 1951 Sugar Bowl
U. of Ky. Libraries.

So under the arm of quarterback Babe Parilli, #8 Kentucky soundly clinched victory over the #1 ranked Sooneers. Hindsight, being 20/20, utilized the computer algorithms of Jeff Sagarain to recompute rankings of historic football squads, inclusive of their bowl records. Recomputed, Kentucky’s Sugar Bowl victory made it the National Champions for the 1950-51 football season!

In either event, there is no doubt that it would have been an exciting time on campus. Coaches Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant both earned well-deserved welcomes in Lexington as they each brought significant trophies home to the University of

Go Cats!

This post is based on an excerpt about Stoll Field & McLean Stadium from LOST LEXINGTON, KY.

Lexington has dozens of well-restored landmarks, but so many more are lost forever. The famous Phoenix Hotel, long a stop for weary travelers and politicians alike, has risen from its own ashes numerous times over the past centuries. The works of renowned architect John McMurtry were once numerous around town, but some of the finest examples are gone. The Centrepointe block has been made and unmade so many times that its original tenants are unknown to natives now.

Preorder LOST LEXINGTON here

Goal! Soccer at the University of Kentucky

UK Men’s Soccer at the Bell Soccer Complex, University of Kentucky. Author’s Collection.

Soccer isn’t really my thing. I’m a football first, then basketball kind of guy. But I’m a fan of the University of Kentucky. And we were playing Louisville. And the proceeds from the ticket sales were going to benefit the Kentucky Mansion Preservation Foundation (KMPF) which is an important non-profit dedicated to preserving historic structures in Kentucky (see comment below).

So last night, I went to my first UK Soccer game. And I took my son along; at age six, he is beginning to show an interest in playing soccer. In all honesty, it was the first time I’ve attended a soccer match (outside of youth games) since the 1996 Olympics group play between the USA and Argentina in Birmingham, Alabama.

Back in Kentucky, UK’s sports marketing planned an “Abe Out” with the suggestion that President Lincoln, Kentucky’s native son, was a Cats fan. (We’ll ignore historical accuracy for a minute solely because it is at the expense of Louisville.)

With Abe on deck, tickets were a penny each and the first 500 fans got a pretty cool t-shirt. We arrived too late to join the ranks of the free t-shirt. Traffic to the soccer complex was heavy and it was a record attendance for UK Soccer (3,368). Few, if any, followed the other Lincoln suggestion as I saw no one dressed in mid-19th century attire.

There was, of course, a nice smattering of blue and white. Big Blue Nation appeared for the Cats sixth home game of the year.

The complex itself – the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex – was completed in the spring of 2014 and we are now enjoying its first season of use. Nicknamed The Bell, the cost for the facility was $7.7 million and it contains separate facilities for both the men’s and women’s programs. The facility also shares some amenities (concessions, bathrooms, etc.) with the softball complex. It is a great facility and I’ll certainly be back (my son agreed!).

The Bell Soccer Complex at the University of Kentucky. Author’s Collection
The Lil’ Kaintuckeean and the Victory Bell.
Author’s Collection

The Victory Bell rung once during the second half of a losing battle versus No. 8 Louisville, 2-1. The bell at The Bell is rung each time the Wildcats score which is a neat tradition. The bell is located just off the sidelines near the northeast end of the complex.

The next home men’s soccer game is on October 3, 2014 versus conference rival Old Dominion. N.B. – The Southeastern Conference, SEC, doesn’t sponsor men’s soccer so UK’s team places in Conference USA. The full men’s schedule can be found here. And the women’s soccer schedule is here.

And now for that comment. For those keeping score at home in Lexington’s historic preservation struggle, the University and preservationists haven’t exactly been on the same page of late.  That ticket sales for the UK-UL matchup’s Abe Out went to the Mary Todd Lincoln House which is managed by KMPF is a nice gesture. Baby steps?

The First Kentucky-Louisville Basketball Game

If you’re a college basketball fan here in Kentucky, this is going to be the longest week ever. In fact, if you aren’t a college basketball fan (or, heaven forbid, cheer for another team…), it’s probably going to be a pretty darned long week as well. As we count down the minutes until Friday night at 9:45, when the Kentucky Wildcats take on the Louisville Cardinals, I thought it would be fun to take a trip back in time — 101 years back in time to be exact — to the first meeting of the teams we now know as UK and U of L.
The first meeting of the Kentucky State University basketball team — deemed the Wildcats in 1909 — and the University of Louisville Cardinals took place on February 15, 1913. Revolution was in the air on the international political stage, as the Mexican Revolution had just begun and the House of Romanov, celebrating 300 years of rule in Russia, would soon be overthrown. In the United States, the Republican attorney from Cincinnati, William Howard Taft, was wrapping up his four-year term as President, soon to be succeeded by Virginia-born Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the Governor of New Jersey and former President of Princeton University. American women were rallying to make their voices heard in politics and the famed Woman Suffrage Parade would be held a few weeks later in Washington, D.C.

Here in Kentucky, James B. McCreary, a Madison County-born attorney, Centre College alumnus, and Civil War veteran was sitting as governor. The 1910 Census listed Louisville as the 24th largest city in the U.S., with a population of 223,928 people. The Ford Motor Company would soon establish a Louisville factory at the corner of Third Street and Eastern Parkway, which would employ 17 workers. Lexington had a population of 47,715, and neither Keeneland nor the Kentucky Theatre had yet been established.

Downtown Louisville, 1913. via U of L Libraries.
Kentucky State University had an established basketball presence, with teams dating back to 1903. The Louisville Cardinals had only begun playing organized basketball the previous season.  The teams met at Lexington’s newly-constructed Buell Armory Gymnasium.

Buell Armory 

Kentucky’s team had recently experienced a coaching shakeup. Edwin R. Sweetland, Kentucky’s first paid coach, had been forced to resign following a bit of a scandal involving the athletic office. The chair of the philosophy department, Dr. J.J. Tigert, was named athletic director and coach; he would later go on to serve as the President of the University of Florida. The first game of Taggart’s 1912-1913 season was a crushing loss to the Lexington YMCA team. The Cardinals, under Coach William Gardinier, were at the disadvantage of having no gymnasium on campus and held games at the Tharp Business School gym.

Coach Edwin Sweetland’s 1911-1912 Kentucky Wildcats
1913-14 Louisville Cardinals
Kentucky women’s team, early 1910s

The game on February 12th was part of a double-header. Kentucky’s women’s team was taking on Kentucky Wesleyan, and the box office draw was $87.95, offsetting the $76 expense of putting on the game.

Gardinier’s Cardinals suffered from injuries — two starters were out of the game. Kentucky emerged victorious, 34-10, and set off an intrastate rivalry that is now in its second century.

Here’s to another 100 years of great basketball between the Commonwealth’s signature college basketball programs!

This post originally appeared on HerKentucky. The author, Heather C. Watson, is a freelance writer and the founding editor of HerKentucky. Heather grew up in an Eastern Kentucky coal town and has called Lexington, Louisville, and Nashville “home.” A frequent contributor to Lexington’s Ace Weekly magazine, Heather specializes in essays about Southern life. She tweets as @heathercw.

walkLEX: Commonwealth Stadium Upgrades Facilities; Downgrades On-Field Play

UK v. Central Michigan
An Upgraded Commonwealth Stadium – Lexington, Ky.

Yes, it is a difficult time to be a Kentucky football fan. This is not an opportunity for Louisville fans to gloat, either, as both teams sit at 2-4. A recent Herald-Leader article points to Kentucky’s statewide battle against New Mexico’s FBS teams for the worst statewide college football landscape. What an honor.

But at least UK fans can enjoy a few facility upgrades in the technology department over at Commonwealth Stadium. And with the team’s lack of on-the-field success, tickets should be very easy to come by.

New video boards at either end of the stadium are 37′ x 80′ apiece, each ranking 15th nationally for largest video boards. The Daktronics HD boards show a crisp image image during the game that is much improved from the old video boards which were smaller and surrounded by advertising. Today’s larger boards include on-screen advertising and on-screen scores and stats. Everyone loves the new video boards, even if a replay of an up-the-middle run or a Tydlacka-punt doesn’t necessarily make for the most exciting game.

More controversial than Joker’s play-calling has been the ribbon boards which surround the stadium immediately below the upper deck. Although I miss the Ring of Honor that saluted former UK standout players, I understand the need to upgrade facilities. And I’m pleased that those players are now honored with flags bearing their names. Even so, it is hard to read those flags and I hope that UK does something more to connect UK football’s present to its past.

Another issue I have with the video boards is that they are used almost solely for advertising. Scores and stats of the current game appear on both sides of the 50-yard-line and KCTCS, McDonalds, and information about the next women’s volleyball game appear elsewhere. Now I understand the need for advertising revenues, but I was very excited about these ribbon boards because I had hoped we would see  regular, live updates from around the conference and around the nation. But alas, these updates are only occasional and are relegated to a small panel at either end zone (the other small end zone ribbon board panels offer play-by-play commentary in closed captioning).

Yes, the upgrades are nice. But they could be better. But we must relish the fact that in terms of total square footage (combining both big-boards and the ribbons), Commonwealth Stadium ranks #3 in the country! That may end up being UK’s standout statistic of the season.

 Win or lose, come out and support the Cats! This is homecoming weekend and we face FCS’ Jacksonville State. Help the ‘Cats “bring home the victory!”

UK v. Central Michigan UK v. Central Michigan UK v. Central Michigan UK v. Central Michigan
more photos of Commonwealth Stadium on flickr

kernel: College Football kickoff is Kentucky-centric

UK v WKU - Lexington, Ky.
UK takes the field against WKU, Sept. 2010 – Lexington, Ky.

In only a few hours, the 2011 edition of college football will kick off in Louisville’s Papa John’s Stadium. The Louisville Cardinals will host the Murray State Racers at 6:00. Then at 9:15 the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will host the University of Kentucky Wildcats at Nashville’s LP Field. College football is (thank God) upon us! (picture of Big Red after the jump!)

UK v WKU - Lexington, Ky.
Big Red

Worth noting: three of these schools (Louisville, Murray State and Western) were charter members of the Ohio Valley Conference (I-AA ball); Murray State is the only remaining OVC member of the three. Louisville has been through its share of conferences: OVC, Missouri Valley Conference, 20 years as a football independent, Conference USA, and the Big East. And the Hilltoppers are in their third year of Division I-A ball, having gone through a few conferences on the way.

Then there is Kentucky: a charter member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which was established in 1932. Yes; I’m on an SEC lovefest right now with all the conference realignment talk and the likely arrival of Texas A&M in our beloved SEC.

Although I bleed blue, I have a little love for WKU. I think it is their affable mascot: Big Red. Big Red is a lovable, red blob. I always enjoy when Big Red graces us with his presence at Commonweatlh Stadium. Still, tonight he is the enemy. GO CATS!

And tonight the eyes of the nation will be upon our Kentucky home (aka Nashville?) to watch four Kentucky teams kick off the 2011 college football season! Did I mention… GO CATS!

More pics from the 2010 UK-WKU matchup at Commonwealth Stadium can be viewed on flickr.

kernel: Dominicans vs. the Pros

Dominican Republic vs. Kentucky Pros - Lexington, Ky.
Nazr Mohammed, Eric Bledsoe and Keith Bogans at Rupp Arena – Lexington, Ky.

Last night at Rupp Arena, the John Calipari-led Dominican Republic (DR) national team soundly defeated a corps of NBA professional, former-Kentucky Wildcats coached by Joe B. Hall.

Yes, last night was a Kentucky fan’s dream come true. On the floor were Nazr Mohammed, Tayshaun Prince, and Keith Bogans. And Jodie Meeks. And John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe. All coached by a Harrison County native who, at age 82 and after 26 years of retirement, coached one more game.

The DR national team was stocked with talent, including a few NBA greats. And one Eloy Vargas, still a UK player, who fans demanded be played by Coach Cal. Coach Cal complied with a minute to spare.

In the end, the score didn’t matter (DR won, 106-88). It was a packed house at Rupp Arena for a Caribbean nation’s exhibition game. It provided some much-needed relief from the annual abyss when sports fans are left abandoned by their football and basketball passions.

Yeah, it was an awesome night. Just look at the picture: Nazr Mohammed (95-98), Eric Bledsoe (09-10) and Keith Bogans (99-03). Generations of Kentucky players on the court at once respectively representing the Rick Pitino, John Calipari, and Tubby Smith eras. Three players, all wearing the blue and white, being coached by Joe B. Hall. Yes – it was an awesome night! You can check out the rest of the pictures I took on flickr.

NoD: Don Gullett Country

Don Gullett Country Memorial; Greenup, Ky.

On the lawn of the Greenup County is a memorial declaring that “This is Don Gullett Country.” I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t recognize the name. I recognized the subject of he neighboring memorial, for Jesse Stuart, plus the Stuart memorial offered details as to who Stuart was.

I had to rely on Google to learn about Don Gullett, and I suppose if I were more of a baseball fan I might have recognized the name. Gullett was born in South Shore (Greenup County), Kentucky in 1951. Before he could drive, pro and college recruiters – baseball, football and basketball – were coming to Greenup County to watch him play at McKell High School. He skipped college and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1969. He played for the Reds for a few seasons before being picked up as a free agent by the New York Yankees.

During his pitching career, he won four consecutive World Series (1975, 1976 with the Reds; 1977, 1978 with the Yankees). His stats are available here. Gullett, suffering from shoulder injuries, retired from the game in 1979 and was released from the Yankees in 1980. He is enjoying retirement on a farm near his birthplace in South Shore.

Go Cats! Beat the Vols!

For my regular readers, you know I rarely deviate from my usual format – avoiding subjects such as sports and politics (so many other great blogs and websites cover the topics). But today is different, today we play Tennessee in football.

Today may be the end of… the streak. Not since 1984 – 25 years – has Kentucky beaten their “SEC rival.” My wife was not born (and I was in the cradle) the last time Kentucky defeated Tennessee. Then, as today, the venue is Knoxville’s Neyland Stadium. Can history repeat itself? I sure hope so! To pacify us for the next few hours until kickoff, here are some amazing historical statistics pulled together by the greatest sports blog of all time, KentuckySportsRadio:

Games in Lexington (13 losses)Combined Score: Tennessee 477, Kentucky 246
Average Score: Tennessee 37, Kentucky 18
Closest Games: 52-50 (2007), 24-22 (1987), 34-31 (1995)
Biggest Blowouts: 48-0 (1993), 42-0 (1985)
Games in Knoxville (12 games)Combined Score: Tennessee 464, Kentucky 178
Average Score: Tennessee 39, Kentucky 15
Closest Games: 28-24 (1988), 17-12 (2006), 37-31 (2004)
Biggest Blowouts: 52-0 (1994), 56-10 (1996), 59-20 (2000), 59-21 (1998)
UK has had 5 coaches during the 25 game streakJerry Claiborne (5 games)
Bill Curry (7 games)
Hal Mumme (4 games)
Guy Morris (2 games)
Rich Brooks (7 games)
13 QB’s have started against Tennessee during the 25 game streakBill Ransdell (1985, 1986)
Glenn Fohr (1987, 1988)
Freddie Maggard (1989, 1990)
Pookie Jones (1991, 1992, 1993)
Antonio O’Ferral (1994)
Billy Jack Haskins (1995, 1996)
Tim Couch (1997, 1998)
Dusty Bonner (1999)
Jared Lorenzen (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)
Shane Boyd (2004)
Andre Woodson (2005, 2006, 2007)
Randall Cobb (2008)
Morgan Newton (2009)
UK has lost 9 games by less than 10 points during the 25 game streak1987: 24-22
1988: 28-24
1991: 16-7
1995: 34-31
2001: 38-35
2004: 37-31
2006: 17-12
2007: 52-50
2009: 30-24
Kentucky has beaten these opponents 5 or more times since 1984
Vanderbilt: 17 times
Mississippi State: 10 times
Louisville: 8 times
South Carolina: 6 times
Georgia: 5 times
Since November 24th, 1984:
-Today marks the 9,498th day since that date
-5 US Presidents
-6 Kentucky Governors
-5 US Senators from Kentucky
-4 UK Presidents
-3 UK Athletic Directors 
Other notable facts:-22 consecutive football senior classes have now graduated without beating Tennessee
-Every SEC team has beaten Tennessee at least once since 1993
-UK has had 55 players drafted in the NFL since 1984
-UK has won 126 football games since November 1984
-Kentucky basketball has beaten Tennessee 42 times since November 1984
-Kentucky baseball has beaten Tennessee 28 times since November 1984

And no I-hate-Tennessee post would be complete without the obligatory video:



Nat Northington

At the Kentucky-Charleston Southern football game, I examined the program and read about UK’s “History and Traditions.” I noted one I had not seen before: Nat Northington. 

Nat Northington

Nat Northington was the first African-American football player to sign with an SEC school (UK) when he did so in 1965. Two African-Americans signed with Coach Charlie Bradshaw to the 1967 squad, the other being Greg Page. Page was paralyzed during a preseason practice and died from complications 38 days later; the university opened a residential apartment community bearing Page’s name in the 1979.

As a result of Page’s injury, only Northington would play football for the Wildcats during the 1967 season. He therefore became the first African-American to play in an SEC game when Ole Miss came to Lexington’s Stoll Field on September 30, 1967. It would take another three years before UK’s basketball team would sign an African-American player.

Sources: ESPN, UKAthletics, Lex H-L. Photo: KYVL.