Men's Basketball

Mark Story: For ex-Cat Federspiel, UK vs. WKU no longer means divided loyalties

Mike Federspiel played the same position at WKU, linebacker, that his father played at Kentucky in the 1970s.
Mike Federspiel played the same position at WKU, linebacker, that his father played at Kentucky in the 1970s. 2011 Herald-Leader file photo

Ever since former Henry Clay linebacker Mike Federspiel signed with Western Kentucky in 2009, football games between WKU and the University of Kentucky have been complicated for his family.

Federspiel's father, Joe, was an All-America linebacker (AP second team) for UK during the John Ray era. After his 10-year NFL career ended, Joe Federspiel moved back to Lexington to open his own insurance firm. Kentucky eventually retired a jersey in his honor.

Yet once his son became a Hilltopper, Joe wore Western red to WKU's games with Kentucky.

This year, when UK and WKU open the 2013 campaign against each other August 31 in Nashville, could have been the most complex of all for the Federspiel family.

Though he missed 2012 due to a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery, Mike Federspiel had one remaining season of eligibility at WKU.

Meanwhile, the former Lee Anne Federspiel, Joe's daughter, Mike's sister, is married to John Schlarman. A 1990s-era UK offensive guard, Schlarman is the new Wildcats offensive line coach.

Seeing the team her husband coaches play against the squad her brother played for would not have been a new experience for Lee Anne. Before coming to UK, Schlarman coached at Troy which, like WKU, competes in the Sun Belt Conference.

"When I was at Troy, it was a little bit of a (family) division," Schlarman said. "(Lee Anne) wanted her brother to do well on the field, but she wanted us to win. She knew (John's team winning) was going to bring the (pay) check home."

Alas, Mike Federspiel has spared his family one final rooting dilemma involving UK and WKU — by giving up his final year of football eligibility at Western. During Bobby Petrino's first spring practice as WKU head man this year, Federspiel's shoulder prevented him from participating.

"It was like 'Mike Fed, you've got your degree (in business administration), your shoulder is not where it needed to be, so it's a good time for you to move on,'" Joe Federspiel said. "Life comes at you pretty fast. He'd had three shoulder surgeries (one at Henry Clay, two at WKU) and I think he decided enough was enough."

This fall, instead of playing against the college football program for whom his Dad starred and his brother-in-law coaches, Mike Federspiel will work as a teacher's aid and help coach linebackers at Bowling Green High School. The ex-Henry Clay standout is mulling whether to go to graduate school and pursue an MBA.

"In the meantime, he's getting a taste of coaching," Joe Federspiel said. "We'll see if he catches the bug."

So when the Kentucky Wildcats kick off the first game of Mark Stoops' tenure as head coach against Western, Joe Federspiel can get back into his a familiar wardrobe.

"We can wear blue again," he said. "Mike's fine with that. He knows we're still WKU fans — if they're not playing Kentucky. But we're excited to get the blue back on."

Corbin's glory days

Back when your grandfather was a lad, in the 1940s, '50 and early '60s, it is possible that no small town in Kentucky had the impact on sports in the commonwealth that Corbin had. That golden era of Corbin athletics is the subject of a new book, The Boys From Corbin: America's Greatest Little Sports Town, by Bowling Green writer Gary P. West.

"(Corbin) was a railroad town, strictly blue collar," West said. "Sports was a way out. But there was more to it than that. For whatever reason, I've never seen a community that had a spirit and got behind its sports teams like Corbin did."

During its sports heyday, Corbin had the Bird family, which sent four sons to play sports at the University of Kentucky — Calvin, Bill and Rodger played football and Jerry basketball for the Wildcats.

Corbin also had the Selvy family, which had five sons go on to play college basketball. Included was Frank Selvy, who set an NCAA record when he scored 100 points in one basketball game for Furman against Newberry College in 1954.

Then there was Roy Kidd, who grew up in Corbin and went on to have a substantial impact on football at Eastern Kentucky University. First, he was a star quarterback and later a two-time national championship-winning head coach.

On Friday, Kidd remembered what it was like growing up in Corbin in the 1940s. "We had fun. None of the kids drank, or even smoked, we just played sports, outside, all the time," he said. "Sometimes, we'd even invent games, anything to be playing."

West has also written books on "King" Kelly Coleman, the Kentucky high school basketball legend and on Louisville's defunct ABA franchise, the Kentucky Colonels. He said the Corbin project began with the idea of writing strictly about the Bird brothers. "But that family, they're very humble people and, when I approached Rodger (Bird), he told me it wasn't something they would want to do," West said.

However, later, Rodger Bird told him that he had talked it over with his brothers Jerry and Calvin (who passed away in June at age 75) and they were willing to cooperate on a book — if West would expand the scope to all the Corbin athletes of the era.

West will be signing copies of The Boys From Corbin Saturday in Lexington from 10 a.m. to noon at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in the Lexington Green and at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Hamburg.