Mark Story: Joker has every right to try to woo Franklin Co. star Timmons to Florida

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013 

A new episode of America's smash-hit game show, Truth or Fiction?

Item one: Kentucky fans have a right to be upset that ex-UK head football coach Joker Phillips is ardently recruiting Franklin County star Ryan Timmons for his new employer, Florida.

Verdict: Fiction. In fact, major fiction.

Peruse Wildcats Internet message boards on Monday and Phillips is being called a pigskin Benedict Arnold because Florida — where Joker is the new wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator — is making a late bid for Timmons, a dynamic wide receiver who is a major UK recruiting priority.

To such criticism, only one response is merited: Oh c'mon.

When last I looked, members of the new coaching staff of Kentucky head man Mark Stoops are wooing players they were recruiting in their old jobs.

Of Stoops' first two UK signees, junior college products Za'Darius Smith and Steven Borden, Smith was being recruited by Stoops' old school, Florida State, and Borden had planned on going to Texas Tech until that school's offensive coordinator, Neal Brown, took the same job at Kentucky.

To switch sports, John Calipari essentially transferred (most of) Memphis' 2009 recruiting class to Kentucky when he took the UK job.

In recruiting Timmons, a player he was pursuing in his Kentucky days, Phillips at Florida is not doing anything the incoming UK coaches have not done.

Item two: A recruit from Kentucky (like a Ryan Timmons) should feel an obligation to in-state schools.

Verdict: Fiction.

One of my least favorite parts of the Internet age in college sports is the teeing off on high school kids that always occurs when a player picks a school other than the "hometown favorite."

Louisville fans were brutal toward former Central star Tim Patterson when he signed with UK over U of L in 2010. In 2011, Kentucky backers unloaded on Boyle County's Lamar Dawson when he chose Southern Cal over UK.

There are many advantages to staying instate to play college sports. Included are playing where you are already well known, being where your family can most easily see you play and, when applicable, having a chance to build a reputation where you might wish to live and do business after college.

However, picking a college is a personal decision. For an athlete, who only gets one shot, four years, to play college sports, it is especially so.

The ultimate obligation for athletes is to do what they perceive to be best for them. They don't have anyone else they need to answer to.

Item three: Kentucky women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell was "pretty unclassy" — as Auburn Coach Terri Williams- Flournoy put it — in not calling off his team's full-court press in what became a 97-53 pasting of the Tigers Sunday.

Verdict: Fiction.

For games that get out of hand, there is in my view a scale of required "sportsmanship" that lessens the higher up one goes on the ladder of competition.

In youth sports or high school sports, I have zero respect for coaches who don't "call off the dogs" against outmanned foes.

However, in major college or professional sports, coaches have no obligation to take their foot off the gas pedal regardless of how badly an opponent is being mauled.

The reason is simple. At the SEC level, you are not simply playing with the players who grew up in your school district. Everybody has the same number of scholarships. In theory, each university has roughly the same opportunity to recruit and build a team.

Across the years, Steve Spurrier has often continued to aggressively try to score touchdowns against hopelessly beaten UK football teams. I've never once criticized him for that.

In 2000, after having Florida throw a bomb for a TD on the final play in a game UF led 52-31 over UK, Spurrier said "if Kentucky is unhappy about that, we'll be up in Lexington next year and they can do something about it then."

In her first year at Auburn, Williams-Flournoy is not responsible for the fact that Auburn's program is at a level where UK could name its score Sunday.

Yet she ought to skip complaining about Mitchell having his team play its normal style for the entirety of a conference game. The energy of Williams-Flournoy would be better invested in recruiting players who can ensure that, in future meetings, Auburn is not in the position to get pulverized by 44 in the first place.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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