Joe Fink, a professor in the College of Pharmacy, said he thinks that the University of Kentucky is big enough to support academic and athletic pursuits. To aid that ideal example of collegiate multitasking, he is staging a series of forums titled "Insights into UK Athletics."
Fink hopes his brainchild will enable UK faculty, staff and students to share thoughts with coaches and other athletic personnel.
"The idea is to facilitate understanding," Fink said. "... The approach is to get understanding on both sides of the house."
The first forum will be Thursday in Room 106 of the White Hall Classroom Building. Beginning at 3:30 p.m., UK coaches Gary Henderson (baseball), Rachel Lawson (softball) and Craig Skinner (volleyball) are scheduled to appear in the first of what Fink hopes will be several such forums each semester.
"Relatively freewheeling," Fink said of his hopes for the forum atmosphere. "Faculty, here's a chance to get your questions asked."
Fink, who is in the second of a three-year term as UK's Faculty Athletic Representative, suspects that there is much for academic and athletic people to learn about each other. For instance, Fink said he was unaware until becoming a faculty rep that some athletes receive less than full scholarships.
"I think there is a mis-impression among faculty about what it means, financially, to be a student-athlete," he said.
When Lee Todd became UK's president, he spoke of closing the gap between the school's academic and athletic communities. Todd voiced his support when approached by Fink with the forum idea.
"One hundred percent gung-ho," Fink said of Todd's reaction. "Go for it!"
Fink saw the gap between UK's academic and athletic communities closing. "Still work to be done, obviously," he added.
Overall, the UK faculty views athletics in a positive light, Fink said. The professors acknowledge that sports teams draw students and donations to the school, he said.
And the athletes can be good students. "There's a stereotype these students have to overcome," Fink said. "A lot are outstanding students."
In future forums, Fink hopes to include Bob Bradley, who heads the athletic department's tutorial service. He'd also like to tackle health issues in light of football player Jeremy Jarmon losing his remaining eligibility for what UK said was the use of a dietary supplement.
Fink, who sees his hometown (20 miles from Penn State University) as validating his athletic credentials, met his goal of meeting this summer with each of UK's head coaches. All agreed to participate.
If the forums meet Fink's expectations, they will reveal more similarities in the two communities than perhaps the coaches and faculty think exist.
"Those coaches are teachers," he said. "They really are. Hopefully, those kind of things will bubble to the surface. People on both sides of the house will see we're more alike than we thought."
Good to be UK
The Southeastern Conference acknowledges that its agreement with ESPN makes for some awkward scheduling moments. Games on Thursday mandate that those teams will play twice in a 72-hour period.
It's an unavoidable — but affordable — price to pay for the coast-to-coast exposure that ESPN provides. Plus ESPN will pay the SEC more than a billion dollars for the inconvenience.
"We try to distribute the Thursday night games as much as possible and this year no one plays on Thursday more than two times," SEC spokesman Craig Pinkerton wrote in an e-mail message. "When putting together the schedule, we were very sensitive to the teams that had Thursday-Saturday games. When teams are scheduled for Thursday-Saturday matchups, we make sure that they are home for at least one of the two games, and that they do not play the early game on Saturday."
It's good (as always?) to be Kentucky. In part because UK is such an attractive program to display on ESPN's "Super Tuesday" schedule, the Cats have fewer possible games on Thursday. SEC rules mandate only one mid-week game.
Kentucky does not play a Thursday league game this coming season. Neither do Louisiana State and Arkansas. Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt each will play twice on Thursday and Saturday of the same week.
UK twice will play Saturday games against teams that played on the previous Thursday. Only Arkansas (three times) gets that advantage more.
In the two seasons of Thursday games, Kentucky will have had the chore of two games in 72 hours only once, the fewest of any SEC team. And the Cats will have played opponents playing their second game in three days six times. Only Arkansas (seven times) will have done it more.
Vandy will have yet to do it.
Here's the rundown on the number of times teams were scheduled for Thursday-Saturday games in 2009-10 and 2010-11: Alabama (3), Arkansas (3), Auburn (5), Florida (5), Georgia (2), Kentucky (1), LSU (2), Ole Miss (4), Mississippi State (4), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (3) and Vanderbilt (4).
Here's the rundown of the number of times teams played on Saturday against opponents coming off Thursday games: Alabama (4), Arkansas (7), Auburn (1), Florida (3), Georgia (4), Kentucky (6), LSU (1), Ole Miss (5), Mississippi State (3), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (1) and Vanderbilt (0).
CBS has the first selection of games, Pinkerton said. Then ESPN selects its Tuesday night games and a few Saturday games. ESPN does not select the Thursday games until after a conference schedule for Wednesdays has been generated.
For this coming season, the SEC added six Tuesday games for ESPNU. Most will lead into the prime time ESPN Super Tuesday game.
"Now fans will be able to watch SEC basketball on Tuesday nights beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern until about 11 p.m.," Pinkerton wrote.
Last week's note about the dog named Rupp Erena led more readers to share their UK- or Lexington-inspired names for pets.
Charles and Susan Wolfe sent a picture of their cat.
"Here's a REAL cat, our tortoise shell-whatever mix," he wrote in an e-mail. "Her name is Miss Calipurrrri — four R's, if you don't mind. We think it should trill!"
By the way, Charles once covered UK athletics as a reporter for The Associated Press before going astray, professionally speaking, covering state government and other so-called news events.
UK graduates Ryan and Ashley Grogan got married last summer. Now living in the Houston area, they adopted two schnoodles named Lexi Ky (pronounced Key) and Mason Headley.
Alternate names considered included Cooper Keightley and Fay Etta," Ryan's mother, Lynn Grogan, wrote in an e-mail. "Those UK ties run deeply!"
Ryan, a 2006 graduate of UK's College of Engineering, works as a contract employee at Johnson Space Center. He's helping test the James Webb Space Telescope that will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope in a few years.
Ryan, who coincidentally is allergic to dogs, said he and his wife have a fish named Keightley.
Ashley, a 2008 graduate, teaches Spanish at a middle school.
Mikhail Torrance fund
The Tuscaloosa Tip-Off Club has established the Mikhail Torrance Fund to aid the former Alabama basketball player as he continues his recovery from a near-fatal collapse.
Torrance, four-year letterman for the Tide, collapsed on the court while working out at the IMG Academy on Aug. 20. He was working out after signing a two-year contract to play in Israel. NBA teams did not draft him after a physical exam raised concerns about a heart condition he had known about — but considered not dangerous. He never missed a game at Alabama because of the condition.
According to sportswriter Tim Povtak of Fanhouse.com, paramedics performed life-saving CPR after Torrance's heart stopped.
The player has been in a Sarasota, Fla., area hospital since the collapse. To help his family with mounting medical expenses that figure to grow during the long recovery period ahead, the Tip-Off Club created the fund. All contributions to the Mikhail Torrance Fund will go toward assisting Torrance and his family.
"Our family is very appreciative of the support we have received," Torrance's parents, Leola and Michael, said in a news release. "We ask for your continued thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time."
Contributions of any amount may be sent to The Mikhail Torrance Fund, c/o The Tuscaloosa Tip-Off Club, Bryant Bank, 1550 McFarland Boulevard N., Tuscaloosa, Ala. 35406.
Feeding the children
UK's Athletic Department is teaming with God's Pantry Food Bank to help alleviate childhood hunger for children at four Lexington schools during the 2010-11 academic year.
UK will be involved in the BackPack Program, which seeks to give hungry children food at times when school is not in session such as weekends and school vacations. Children are given backpacks filled with nonperishable, vitamin-fortified food.
Throughout this school year, UK athletes and staffers will help pack the weekly supplements and deliver them to Picadome, Lansdowne and Cassidy Elementary Schools, and Morton Middle School.
"We are very excited to work with God's Pantry for the BackPack Program," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said a news release. "Our goal is for our athletes and staff to do more community service than we've ever done in the past. I want us to be intentional about helping this community. As student-athletes at Kentucky, it's a privilege to be an athlete and to be given an opportunity to improve our education and our fitness. It's also important to continue being influential in the community we live and let people know we are very appreciative of everything this community does for us."
In his Los Angeles Times blog, James Rainey noted an exchange that happened in a high school football press box.
"Joe Davidson has been slinging copy for the Sacramento Bee for more than 20 years and, though he loves pro and college games, the sportswriter's real passion is high school sports," Rainey wrote.
"Davidson has become enough of a fixture that coaches and fans in Folsom must have been surprised Friday when a television producer shouted at the veteran writer that he didn't belong in the press box for the big Grant-Folsom high school football game.
"When Davidson insisted that he indeed did have a seat reserved in the press box, the TV woman snapped: 'I'm ESPN!'
"Perhaps ESPN will one day dominate metro and community sports news the way it does the national sports universe. But it won't get there simply by showing up and announcing its arrival."
Cal in Ashland
UK Coach John Calipari is scheduled to be part of a fund-raising event in Ashland on Monday. Calipari and Marshall's new coach, Tom Herrion, will speak at the Ashland Plaza Hotel. The event, which includes dinner, begins at 5:30 p.m.
Seats are available with tickets priced at $125. Seats at the head table with Calipari and Herrion are $1,000. Proceeds go to Ashland Main Street, a non-profit group.
More information is available by calling Danny Craig at (606) 232-2744.
Kudos to reader Clarence "Red" Stephens, who pointed out a math error. When UK raised the required donation for a seat in the first four rows of Rupp Arena from $1,350 to $5,000, that represented a 270.37 percent increase, he noted in a letter.
This wasn't the first time that Stephens, who lives in Nicholasville, pointed out a mistake in the Herald-Leader. He recalled a former columnist quoting someone as claiming to have played 300,000 rounds of golf in a lifetime.
Stephens did the math and figured a person playing a round of golf per day would need about 822 years to play 300,000 rounds.
Stephens, who was almost apologetic about his eye for accuracy, said, "I'm a nut about that kind of thing."
To Steve Masiello and Nazr Mohammed, former teammates on UK's last Final Four and national championship team (1998).
Masiello turned 33 on Thursday. Mohammed turns 33 Sunday.