Joe Peek, a faculty representative on the University of Kentucky's Board of Trustees, hopes to make it easier for students and others to make their voices heard by that body. A meeting a year ago this month moved him to seek change.
In October of last year, the Trustees approved a proposal to name a new dorm for the men's basketball team "Wildcat Coal Lodge." Moments before the vote, a statement from students opposing the proposal was distributed to the Trustees. It seemed to be ignored.
When students began shouting their opinions, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. and most board members retreated to a back room.
Peek, then not a member of the board, was aghast.
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"You have to think of the image of the university," he said last week. "That was a public relations disaster. It made the University of Kentucky and the state of Kentucky a laughingstock."
The current rules make it unlikely that non-members can address UK's Board of Trustees. By the time the complicated process to gain approval to speak is completed, the meeting will have already been held.
"They had a set of rules in place that made it virtually impossible for you to talk unless they really wanted you to," Peek said.
Peek plans to work for rules reform that give people "a better chance" to express themselves at Trustees meetings.
As for the Wildcat Coal Lodge, Peek remains opposed to the name. "To me, UK sold out," he said.
The idea at the time was UK should not — and could not — turn down the $7 million donation from coal interests, primarily.
"The argument was, well, it was free money," Peek said. "No, it wasn't free money."
The coal interests got the publicity that goes with the name, Peek said. And, theoretically, the money approved for the basketball dorm could have gone to, say, academic scholarships.
"My view is if the coal barons cared about the university or the citizens of Kentucky or the citizens of the coal-producing counties of Kentucky," Peek said, "instead of $7 million for that dorm, why didn't they do $7 million for scholarships?
"If you care, if you're truly difference-makers and you want to make a difference in someone else's life, there are better ways to do it."
Peek suggested a matching program in which a person or company must match the donation to UK athletics with an equal amount to UK academics.
One man, one vote
The SEC conducted a media poll for its pre-season all-league team and predictions for the 2010-11 race. Results will be announced on Monday.
Here's the ballot I turned in Thursday morning (before John Calipari urged reporters to see Georgia as a contender):
All-SEC team: Brandon Knight, Kentucky; Marshawn Powell, Arkansas; Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt; Trey Thompkins, Georgia; Chris Warren, Ole Miss.
Player of the Year: Thompkins.
Eastern Division: 1. Georgia; 2. Florida; 3. Kentucky; 4. Vanderbilt; 5. Tennessee; 6. South Carolina.
Western Division: 1. Mississippi State; 2. Alabama; 3. Ole Miss; 4. Arkansas; 5. LSU; 6. Auburn.
SEC champion: Georgia.
Cal and Maui
In a question-and-answer session with a select group of reporters this summer, UK Coach John Calipari voiced his misgivings about playing in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Calipari lamented having three games away from home this Thanksgiving week, noting the three "exempt" games equaled one less home game or $600,000 in revenue for UK's athletic department. He also complained about the lengthy travel involved, which could adversely affect a freshman-oriented team.
This led Robert Collias of The Maui News to respond. In his blog, he listed reasons why Calipari should re-consider:
■ "UK has come to this tournament every time it is allowed (once every four years, as per NCAA rule) before JC arrived in town. BTW, coach, this tournament does not need you to worry about its well-being;"
■ "For one missed home game, UK gets to play three here in paradise against a loaded field that includes Michigan State, Connecticut, a very good Wichita State unit, Oklahoma and Virginia;"
■ "It may not be 600-large, but I know that the UK team will be well compensated, in one way or another, for playing here by ESPN. If it is not directly with money, it is certainly the exposure and prestige that playing here helps in recruiting, national recognition, etc."
■ "Whether he likes it or not, the Maui event will make Calipari's team better;"
■ "It is something the UK boosters count on every four years — these folks have set records for coming here several times, including loading two full planes when they were here last in 2006;"
■ "This tournament is good enough that Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, UConn, and Arizona, arguably the best of the best programs in the nation, including Kentucky, come every time they can."
Speaking of Maui, the tournament announced its 2012 field last week. It does not lack for star power with such teams as Duke, Kansas and UCLA.
Other teams scheduled to be part of next year's field are Tennessee, Georgetown, Michigan, Memphis and Chaminade.
The tournament also announced a format expansion that should address John Calipari's concerns about lost revenue. Beginning next year, the Maui Invitational will have 12 teams rather than the traditional eight.
In addition to the eight that will play in Hawaii, four more teams will serve as warm-up opponents on the mainland prior to Thanksgiving week. For example, UK would play a home game against one of the warm-up opponents before going to Maui.
The four warm-up opponents will stay on the mainland and play two double-headers against each other.
After reading about the Enes Kanter eligibility issue, and especially after seeing the picture of the UK player on the outside looking into Media Day, reader John Srygler sent an e-mail message last week. He wanted to get an idea into the NCAA's suggestion box.
"My concern is the look on the Kanter kid's face ... ," wrote Srygler, 53, a truck driver who lives in Hodgenville. "The NCAA should really take into consideration how they let any of these kids be treated like second-class citizens. You could see it in his eyes. He felt left out and hurt.
"If the NCAA had a suggestion line, I would tell them to let up on these kids a little. I realize they have to have a certain amount of power over these matters, but to leave the whole world in limbo till a final decision has been made is a little much."
Srygler suggested that the NCAA permit players in eligibility limbo to participate in all activities except games. He also objected to the practice of ordering programs to vacate victories and championships when a player is retroactively declared ineligible.
"All this big sporting thing is money-oriented," he wrote. "So hit them where it hurts worse: in their pocket book."
Year to cheer
Arguably no college athletic department has had a better 2010 than South Carolina. In this calendar year, the school has enjoyed a victory over a No. 1-ranked team three times.
This began when No. 1 Kentucky lost at South Carolina last Jan. 26 in basketball. Then the baseball team beat No. 1 Arizona State in the College World Series en route to a national championship. Then Steve Spurrier's football team beat No. 1 Alabama last weekend.
"They all rank up there," Athletics Director Eric Hyman said. "I don't think I can distinguish one from the others. They were all very special."
Hyman calls those victories "R.O.I": return on investment.
"It's a huge R.O.I. for all of our fans," he said. "They're getting dividends for what they've put into the program."
In comparing the thrills of victory, Hyman said, "In basketball, it was just exhilarating. In baseball, it sort of put you numb. What happened on Saturday (against Alabama), just speechless."
Hyman saluted the poise and character displayed by Spurrier's team against Alabama.
South Carolina had never beaten a No. 1 team in football or basketball until this year.
If there is a downside to beating No. 1 teams, it's that the SEC fines South Carolina each time its fans rush the field or court to celebrate. It cost South Carolina $25,000 when fans rushed the court after the Gamecocks beat UK in basketball.
"I turned around, look down and see doctors, lawyers, legislators," Hyman said. "Everybody thinks it's kids. No. No. No. It's a bunch of other people, too."
Thinking back on the scene, Hyman regretted that UK freshman DeMarcus Cousins got accused of mistreating a fan.
"That's not fair to DeMarcus," Hyman said. "Put yourself in the shoes of a young person. They've given their all. Obviously, there's a frustration level. Our fans don't need to be taunting anybody."
Someone will win two lower arena tickets for the 2010-11 UK season in a raffle organized by Lexington Catholic High School.
Tickets are $20 each and only 3,000 will be sold. Drawing will be held on Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. at Shrewsbury Hall in the Alltech Brewery. The winner does not need to be present to win.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.lexingtoncatholic.com.
Dancing with the Cats
Scott Shive, the Entertainment editor for the Herald-Leader, was watching Dancing with the Stars last week.
To accompany Bristol Palin's dance, the show aired a feature of her at home. Shive noticed her son, Trig, in a scene. He was wearing a Kentucky T-shirt.
If you're wondering why the NCAA formed a Basketball Focus Group, questions about Baylor's recruiting provided an answer last week. The Basketball Focus Group, which was formed to help reform recruiting, has been looking at Baylor's recruitment of Colombia native Hanner Perea, a high school player in Indiana. In particular, a text message from Baylor assistant coach Mark Morefield to Perea's high school coach, Alan Huss, raised questions.
Last week The New York Times printed the text message, which seemed to convey a threat of deportation.
"I guarantee you if he does commit to another school, he will be in Colombia for the spring and summer and next year," Morefield wrote according to The New York Times report. "Don't forget it."
John Wooden, college basketball's preeminent coach, would have turned 100 on Thursday.
Last year Wooden collaborated with former Sports Illustrated associate editor Don Yaeger on what became his last book. In A Game Plan for Life, Wooden notes the power of mentoring and offers his thoughts on how it can be done.
It does not have to be complicated.
"If you live your life properly, you will mentor other people," Yaeger said last week when asked about Wooden's ideas on mentoring. "They will know through you living right and doing right."
The book, which will come out in paperback in March, includes seven people who Wooden considered his mentors. Those include Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln. It also has seven people Wooden believed he touched as a mentor.
Of course, Wooden faced his imminent death as he worked on this last book.
"I'm completely unafraid of it," he told Yaeger. "When it comes, I'll be given the greatest gift."
He anticipated a reunion at long last with his late wife, Nell, who died 25 years ago.
In a new foreward for the book's paperback edition, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski noted the long-lasting influence of Wooden's example.
"If you offered up as many lessons to other people as John Wooden did, you never really die," Krzyzewski wrote. "Those lessons live on."