Sports

2008 clearly The Year of the (ex) Cats

Notes on the back of an 'I Voted' sticker:

■ If the marketing department at the University of Kentucky Athletics Association is on the ball, they've got a boffo self-promotion opportunity available for year's end.

In the calendar year 2008, ex-UK athletes have:

1. won a Super Bowl ring (Jared Lorenzen);

2. won an NBA championship ring (Rajon Rondo);

3. won the Ryder Cup (J.B. Holmes);

4. won a World Series ring (Joe Blanton).

There could be more major sports bling on the way for an ex-Cat if Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb wins the National League Cy Young award (and he deserves to win it).

Those of you who are "Kentucky proud" will especially relish the 2008 bounty by former Wildcats. Lorenzen (Fort Thomas); Rondo (Louisville); Holmes (Campbellsville); Blanton (Franklin); and Webb (Ashland) are all homegrown.

■ The groovy stat of the week comes courtesy of Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean. Since Vanderbilt made its most recent bowl appearance in 1982, the Commodores are 0-16 in games in which a victory would have made them post-season eligible.

That figures to become 0-17 after Urban Meyer's Florida tsunami hits Nashville Saturday.

Then Bobby Johnson's Commodores will come to Lexington with everything on the line.

■ Runner-up for groovy stat of the week comes from Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: With David Cutcliffe as his offensive coordinator, Phillip Fulmer is 85-19 as Tennessee's head football coach.

Without Cutcliffe calling plays, Fulmer is 65-32.

■ Speaking of Fulmer, a segment of Tennessee fans — the Association of Fulmer Bashers? — is rejoicing over UT's having forced out its longtime football coach.

There's no question that Tennessee of the 2000s hasn't been the Tennessee of the 1990s. Still, I doubt that the next UT coach will have anywhere close to the success that Fulmer had.

Because of vastly superior home-state recruiting bases, I would argue that Florida, Georgia and Louisiana State are now clearly better jobs than Tennessee.

Even though it has to split in-state recruiting with Auburn, I would rank Alabama ahead of UT because of deeper tradition.

In my view, the Tennessee job is now the fifth-best coaching job in the Southeastern Conference at best. Yet it comes with a fan base that expects to be consistently at Florida's level.

■ When Western Kentucky University ended its first pre-season men's basketball exhibition against a team from Lithuania, the Hilltoppers had only four players on the court.

Because of injuries and other attrition, WKU had just six players available at the start of the game. When sophomore big man D.J. Magley fouled out and junior guard A.J. Slaughter came out of the game with leg cramps, Western played the final 1:21 of an 89-64 win four-on-five.

■ Call it the Battle of the Aged.

Last Sunday, I told you the story of Ken Mink.

The Perry County native, 73, is a sophomore guard on the men's basketball team at Roane State Community College in Tennessee.

Mink played his freshman year of college basketball 52 years ago at Lees Junior College in Jackson.

After someone soaped the basketball coach's office at Lees, Mink was blamed and expelled from school.

To this day, Mink says he didn't do it. He spent his life lamenting the sophomore basketball season he never got to have.

Roane State Coach Randy Nesbit decided to give Mink a chance to end the regret. On Monday night, Mink hit two free throws in Roane State's victory over the King College junior varsity.

Wednesday afternoon, I got a phone call.

Joe Willis is 72. A Baptist minister in Chandler, Ind., (near Evansville), Willis says he plays basketball at least twice a week. He said he has been part of a three-on-three team that has won national tournaments in the 70-75 age group.

Someone sent Willis a copy of my column about Ken Mink.

"I'm challenging him to a game of one-on-one," Willis said. "Any time, any place."

I called Mink — who was in North Carolina with the Roane State team on a road trip — to tell him he'd been called out.

"Bring it on," Mink said. "I'd have to work it into my schedule. Maybe around Thanksgiving break."

If Metamucil will sign on as corporate sponsor, maybe we can make this happen.

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