Retiring University of Kentucky president Lee T. Todd Jr. raised eyebrows earlier this month when he awarded Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart with a contract extension and a six-figure pay increase.
But there is a precedent. Almost nine years previous to the day, then-UK president Charles Wethington gave then A.D. Larry Ivy a one-year contract extension and 10 percent pay raise. At the time, Wethington had less than two months to serve as UK president.
Steve Reed, then a UK trustee, saw Wethington's decision as inappropriate given an NCAA investigation of the school's football program at the time. "It's also improper to give an extension and a pay raise as you are going out of office," Reed said in February 2002.
Fast forward nine years, and Reed applauded Todd giving Barnhart an extension.
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For Reed, the difference is the job Barnhart has done in keeping the UK Athletics Department a profitable enterprise, enhancing revenues and, most importantly, avoiding any serious brushes with NCAA justice.
"People don't realize how valuable that is while there's no investigation," Reed said with a chuckle. "They only realize how valuable that is when it's too late."
Critics note that Barnhart is not a back-slapping, rally-the-fans type of sports administrator. He's not warm and fuzzy. He's cool and efficient, which Reed said justified a new contract.
"Mitch brings a professional wall that I think is important in any athletic department, particularly at the University of Kentucky, where the players are so loved," said Reed, an attorney who left the Board of Trustees in 2006. "He brings a professional wall that serves us well."
In that context, the decision to give Barnhart a three-year extension and boost his salary from $475,000 to $600,000 is a reward for what Todd likes to call changing the culture of UK athletics. To do it five months before leaving office might be Todd's way of thwarting a return to what was business as usual.
America's most penalized
Last week saw the NCAA announce penalties against Connecticut basketball that included a suspension of Coach Jim Calhoun for three Big East games and a reduction of one scholarship in each of three seasons. That marked the first major infractions in any sport by UConn.
That got sportswriter Steve Wieberg of USA Today thinking. He decided to look at the 65 schools in the six major conferences, plus Notre Dame, and count how many times the NCAA had penalized sports teams for major violations.
Wieberg found that only four of the schools had never been penalized in any sport: Boston College, Northwestern, Penn State and Stanford.
Two of the four "carry asterisks," Wieberg noted, because of point-shaving scandals at Boston College and Northwestern.
The most penalized school is Arizona State, with nine different cases that brought NCAA punishment. The second-most penalized school is Southern Methodist.
The NCAA has punished seven schools seven times each. Those unlucky seven are Florida State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Auburn and Memphis.
Kentucky has been penalized for major infractions six times in its history. The hammer of NCAA justice came down on UK in 1953, 1964, 1976, 1988, 1989 and 2002.
Seven other schools joined Kentucky with six: Kansas, Kansas State, Illinois, California, Southern Cal, UCLA and Georgia.
Among the college basketball elite, Indiana has had three major cases involving any of its athletic teams (1957, 1960 and 2008) while Duke (1972) and North Carolina (1961) have had one each.
Of course, Tennessee prepares for an appearance before the NCAA Committee on Infractions later this year. Any resulting penalty from the NCAA would be the Vols' third, the other two coming in 1991 and 1996.
Lamb to NBA?
The unsettled NBA labor situation makes any draft prediction a risky proposition. But Tony Gaujot is on a roll, so why not?
Gaujot, an assistant coach at Warren Central High, correctly predicted that Eric Bledsoe would enter the 2010 NBA Draft. This prediction came before January 2010. In other words, a time when Bledsoe was thought to be waiting for John Wall to leave after the season so he could become UK's point guard in 2010-11.
The rest is history.
For weeks now, Gaujot has touted another long-shot draft prediction: that Doron Lamb leaves UK after the season for the NBA. Like Bledsoe last season, Lamb's light gets obscured by two freshman teammates, in Lamb's case Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight.
Gaujot notes that Lamb's 48.6 percent three-point shooting compares favorably with J.J. Redick's 40.6-percent career accuracy for Duke. And Lamb's 13.3-point scoring average is better than such early draft entrants as Russell Westbrook (13 points per game), Jrue Holiday (8), B.J. Mullens (9), Daniel Orton (3.4) and Bledsoe (11.4).
Gaujot, who aspires to run his own recruiting and consulting service, attended West Virginia University, where he was a student manager on the basketball team. After college, he worked for the Washington Wizards in marketing and game operations.
Florida State celebrates
Florida State celebrated a reunion of its 1972 Final Four team on Saturday. There was a distinct Kentucky flavor in the air.
Of course, Coach Hugh Durham was a Louisville native as was leading scorer Ron King. Other players with Kentucky connections were Otto Petty of Louisville and Larry Gay of Winchester.
Durham, then only 34, blazed a trail by making Florida State one of the first schools in the South to fully integrate its basketball team. He has said he did this for practical reasons; He wanted the best players to enhance the chances of winning. The price to pay included racial prejudice and a look-down-their-noses attitude from opponents.
"You felt like you were playing not just for Florida State," Gay said, "but for a whole group of people."
Florida State was something of a mom-and-pop operation in 1972. "I played in a bigger gym in high school," Gay said.
The budget could not afford to send the cheerleaders on the road until the national championship game against UCLA. Another Final Four participant's band, North Carolina, agreed to play Florida State's fight song for the championship game. The Seminoles had beat UNC in the national semifinals.
In the NCAA Tournament, Durham's team beat Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp in his last game and North Carolina Coach Dean Smith before losing to UCLA Coach John Wooden.
"We had something to prove," Durham has been quoted as saying, "and we proved it."
It was good to see Hall of Fame Coach Eddie Sutton at the Kentucky-Arkansas game Wednesday night.
Sutton, who turns 75 on March 12, never coached in Bud Walton Arena. He had the good fortune to coach the Razorbacks in Barnhill Arena, arguably the best home-court atmosphere in the history of college basketball.
"I coached at three schools that had great home-court advantages," said Sutton, meaning Kentucky and his alma mater, Oklahoma State, as well as Arkansas. "This was a special place because basketball at the time just took off. It was a happening."
The band put the pep in "pep band." It mixed infectious enthusiasm with a sense of humor, the latter on display when it played the theme to The Godfather when then-UK coach Rick Pitino made his one and only entrance onto the court.
The 10,000 seats were close to the floor. The fans were intent on getting emotionally involved.
"We lost three games there my first year," Sutton said. "In the next decade, we lost five. There were games we won because of the crowd. It was a fun place to coach."
Sutton, who compiled a record of 804-327 as a college coach, recalled the humble beginnings of making Arkansas a notable basketball program. Early on, there was no pep band. He and assistant Pat Foster paid selected members of the school's marching band $5 each to form a pep band and play at basketball games.
But, first, Sutton had to persuade Athletics Director Frank Broyles to allow a pep band. Broyles, a former football coach, saw a band as irrelevant.
"I told Frank, the band plays a very integral part of success in basketball," Sutton said.
Kudo for Sutton
Sidney Moncrief spoke at the Little Rock Tip-Off Luncheon on Monday. He credited his coaches at Arkansas, notably Eddie Sutton and assistant Pat Foster, with helping build the mental toughness it took for him to play 11 years in the NBA.
"Coach Sutton had no limits in his practices and took it to the breaking point," said Moncrief, Arkansas' No. 2 career scorer with 2,066 points. "He gave me the mental toughness to play in the NBA."
Former UK Athletics Director Larry Ivy is a cancer survivor. His wife, Dorene, sent along the good news in an e-mail last week.
"Larry was diagnosed with prostate cancer," she wrote. "He had surgery & is recovering great. Doctors say he has beaten the 'Big C.' "
Good news II
Former Florida big man Dwayne Schintzius attended a game recently. That qualified as news considering that he had been diagnosed with leukemia less than two years earlier. He'd undergone chemotherapy and lost more than 50 pounds in the fight to beat cancer.
Now cancer-free, Schintzius, 42, is writing a novel. He earlier spent two years writing a book, "Dwayne Schintzius' Guide to Free and Easy Exercise for People on the Go."
Schintzius hopes his novel can be made into a screenplay.
As the University of Florida Web site noted, Schintzius is reading William Strunk's classic work, Elements of Style, in hopes of improving his writing talent.
'Conversations with Champions'
Billy Reed, a former sports columnist for the Herald-Leader and, earlier, Louisville's Courier-Journal, is playing host to a series of discussions about success and ethics in sports. Georgetown College is the sponsor.
Sportscaster Tom Hammond will be Reed's guest on "Conversations with Champions" this Wednesday night at Georgetown College. Among the topics Hammond and Reed are expected to discuss is NBC's recent regaining of the television rights to the Belmont Stakes, giving the network all three Triple Crown races again.
The discussion will be at 7:30 p.m. in the John Hill Chapel. It is free and open to the public.
On his weekly commentary for National Public Radio last week, Frank Deford noted how sports and jingoism increasingly mix.
"I've always wondered why it is SOP —— standard operating procedure —— for the national anthem to be performed at games, when no one would ever expect The Star-Spangled Banner to be played at the theater or the opera or a rock concert or at the start of the Academy Awards this Sunday," Deford said. "Why is this strictly an athletic devotion?"
As time marches on, we get closer to bombs bursting in air.
"And, now, at the start of major sporting events, it's also obligatory to have military jets flash overhead," Deford said. "The Olympics sends up doves. We send up fighter planes."
To college basketball television giant Billy Packer. An analyst for the Atlantic Coast Conference, NBC and then CBS, Packer worked 35 NCAA Tournaments. Born Anthony William Paczkowski, he turned 71 on Friday.