Sweet Sixteen: Richie Farmer says watching son in Rupp 'awfully special'

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 20, 2014 

Richie Farmer's life will undergo a drastic change next week when he reports to federal prison in Hazelton, W.Va., to begin serving a 27-month sentence.

But Thursday night, Farmer was in the comfortable cocoon of basketball, watching his son Trey play for Clay County in the Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.

Farmer was originally supposed to report to prison earlier this week, but he asked for a delay so that he could see Trey play for the first time in the state tournament.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove granted the extension, saying it was out of deference to Farmer's family, not as a special privilege to Farmer.

"This is just awesome," Farmer said Thursday night. "I really didn't have any idea they'd let me come. But I wanted to ask and to do everything I could to be here.

"I wanted it for Trey as much as for me, so he wouldn't have to be thinking about other things and could just focus on playing ball."

Richie Farmer got his first Sweet Sixteen playing time 30 years ago as an eighth-grader at Clay County. He eventually led the Tigers to the state title in 1987, and he was Mr. Basketball in 1988.

He went on to play at Kentucky and was a fan favorite.

After getting into politics, Farmer became Kentucky agriculture commissioner. Last September, he pleaded guilty to using state resources for his personal benefit.

Farmer seemed to be in an upbeat mood when he arrived at the Sweet Sixteen on Thursday night.

"It's awfully special to get to see Trey play his first game on the Rupp Arena floor," he said. "I just hope I don't get too emotional about it.

"It means a lot that we'll be able to do it together."

Farmer said being separated from his children for more than two years will be the most difficult part of prison.

"I can't even express how tough that'll be."

Farmer's mood brightened when he was asked about his son's big black beard.

"I tried to get Trey to shave it all year. But it's got us here, so he can keep it," Farmer said with a laugh.

A film crew was following Farmer around in Rupp Arena for a possible documentary. Farmer said no final decision has been made on the project.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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