John Clay's notes: Big Blue Nation not football-crazy

Attendance down 13% since 2009

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 19, 2012 

Random notes:

Going by numbers provided by Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal, Kentucky is one of nine BCS schools that have experienced more than a 10 percent drop in average football attendance since 2009.

Illinois has suffered the steepest decline, its football attendance down 16.8 percent from the '09 season through this past season.

Kansas is next at 16.4 percent, followed by South Florida (15.2), Pittsburgh (13.9), Kentucky (13.8), UCLA (12.2), Southern Cal (11.8), Rutgers (10.9) and Purdue (10.4).

Illinois, Kansas, Pittsburgh and UCLA have all changed coaches since the end of last season.

The other interesting note is that three of the nine are Big East schools — Pitt, South Florida and Rutgers.

 An emailer objected to yours truly referring to Anthony Davis as "freakish" in my Wednesday column from the Kentucky-Arkansas game. I meant it solely in the sense that the 6-foot-11 center is an athletic freak, with a unworldly wingspan and quickness to quickly close space between himself and a perimeter shooter.

 So Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings is complaining that Kentucky isn't subjected to the television-induced Thursday-Saturday turnarounds in conference play. Even if Stallings has a point, doesn't the Commodores' commander have enough to worry about with a team that lost to Cleveland State and Indiana State and has routinely folded its hand early in the NCAA Tournaments? Just saying.

 When Kentucky football suffered an unusual rash of injuries early in Rich Brooks' football tenure, I don't remember the Big Blue Nation questioning the coach's practice methods, as Rick Pitino's methods are being questioned now.

 On the other hand, Pitino has a bad habit of sending out subordinates, even relatives, to answer questions after losses. Kentucky lost six SEC road games by a combined total of 18 points last season. John Calipari made himself available to the media after each defeat, no matter how disappointing.

 Who do you guess writes Jimmy Dykes' lines for him anyway? Or, should I say, the one line he repeats over and over.

 In the wake of North Carolina's stunning 33-point loss to Leonard Hamilton and Florida State last Sunday, my blog readers and I did some research to find the largest loss, in terms of margin, by a team that went on to win the NCAA title.

Answer: The 1964-65 UCLA Bruins lost by 27 points, 110-83, to Illinois, yet rallied to give John Wooden his second consecutive NCAA Tournament title.

 By the way, apparently taking your scholarship players to the locker room and leaving your walk-ons out on the court in case fans rush the floor is the Carolina Way.

 I hope Kentucky lands Shabazz Muhammad for a perfectly selfish reason. I enjoy saying Shabazz.

 Florida made a wise offensive coordinator hire in Brent Pease, who it coaxed away from Boise State. Jared Lorenzen was critical of Pease's two-year stay in Lexington, but the former UK quarterback had his best season as a Cat in 2002 under Pease, throwing for 24 touchdowns, compared to just five interceptions.

 Let's just say Billy Gillispie is not off to a jackrabbit start at Texas Tech. His Red Raiders are 0-5 in Big 12 play heading into Saturday's game with Iowa State. Most Tech points scored in the five games: 60 in a 13-point loss to Baylor.

 Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin complained to Volunteer fans about the amount of blue in the stands at Thompson-Boling for last Saturday's UK-UT game. Welcome to the SEC, Cuonzo.

 My Sunday NFL picks: Home teams are 7-1 in NFL playoff games this year. New York Giants were lone visitor to triumph thus far. But Giants won't survive at San Francisco. Home teams will be 9-1, and a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl.

 After actor Rob Lowe tweeted Wednesday that he heard Peyton Manning is retiring, Adam Jacobi of CBSSports.com tweeted that "Molly Ringwald just reported that Rob Ryan's job is in jeopardy."

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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