Two days after his clumsily worded news release about post-game handshakes touched off a firestorm of criticism directed at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, Commissioner Julian Tackett said he was "a little bruised, but not beaten."
In fact, Tackett could see a big upside to the controversy that earned the KHSAA mention on ESPN's Sportscenter, The Today Show, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, an unfathomable number of tweets, and much bloviating by politicians seeking publicity. "We haven't had as much discussion in the last 36 years about sportsmanship than we've had in the last 36 hours," Tackett said Thursday. "That is a huge benefit. I'll lay on the sword a little bit if that's what it takes to get the community talking."
Tackett is sharp and savvy when it comes to communication's new technology, but he was blown away by how quickly his "directive" or "suggestion" about post-game handshakes made the rounds on Twitter. (Two media outlets used the word "ban" in their reports, ginning up the controversy. Tackett said they've apologized for that mistake.)
"The social media stuff was stunning," Tackett said. "It went around so fast. People tweeted the headline 100,000 times but never tweeted the story. Society is getting its information 140 characters at a time now. The question is, how do I harness the power of social media to promote our programs?"
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You can bet that every school in the state is now reviewing its game management. Common sense dictates that if there's reason to think the heat of competition might spill over to post-game handshakes, then send the teams directly to the locker rooms.
Having covered thousands of high school games in the last four decades, I can count on one hand the number of post-game dust-ups I've seen. The overwhelming majority of high school athletes are gracious in victory and defeat.
Tackett thinks that with this week's controversy, "the discussion of sportsmanship has never been higher. We may see more schools shaking hands, and more talk about civility. That's a huge takeaway from all of this."
■ Bowling Green Coach Kevin Wallace said he was "embarrassed" by his Purples' 91-10 victory over Logan County last week. "I hate that it happened. It was kind of a perfect storm — Logan County had six turnovers, and we returned two of them for touchdowns, and we had a number of short fields to score on. We had a running clock in the first quarter, and you don't tell your players to quit playing. We substituted a lot. I was proud of the way our younger guys played but I'm not proud of the score." Devin Hayes tied a state record with eight TD passes in the first half. Nacarius Fant had four catches for 129 yards and three TDs as the Purples won their 36th game in a row. Bowling Green's open date this week coincides with the school's fall break. Wallace gave his players seven days off, something he's done in the past "and it seems to have worked well." The Purples play cross-town district rival Warren Central on Oct. 18.
■ Johnson Central middle linebacker Brad Auxier is always around the football. The 5-9, 145-pound senior has recovered nine fumbles and is leading the Golden Eagles in tackles for the second year in a row. Coach Jim Matney, who is also Johnson Central's wrestling coach, has a physical defense, partly because it has seven wrestlers starting on that side of the ball. The Eagles are 6-0 and averaging 58 points a game after beating traditional Ohio power Ironton 56-14. If they haven't been challenged yet, they will be when they visit Ashland Blazer and Belfry to finish the regular season.
■ Aaron Botts had a career night in leading Montgomery County past West Jessamine 50-28. The 5-11, 198-pound senior rushed for 219 yards and four TDs, and starred on defense with seven tackles. He also handled kickoff duties for the Indians and recovered one of his squibbed kicks. Coach Dan Gooch noted that Botts is also a star in the classroom. "A true student-athlete," Gooch said.
■ Henry Clay Coach Sam Simpson got his 200th career victory when the Blue Devils beat Madison Central last week. Simpson is in his 21st season at Henry Clay where he has a record of 161-90, highlighted by a state runner-up finish in 1995. Simpson was at Marion County five years before taking over the Devils in 1993. Since then, Lexington's six other football high schools have had 31 coaches. How does Simpson explain his longevity at one place? "What happened is I believe in what the school tries to do here," he said. "I enjoy my companionship with my peers, and on top of that my sons (Salin, Samuel and Sullivan) have all come through this program and this school system and gotten a good education." Simpson said he's "never really looked hard" at other jobs because his family is happy here and Henry Clay football has had a lot more ups than downs. "We'll keep plugging away. We'd love to have the chance to play for a state championship again," he said. "That's our quest."
■ South Warren gave up its first TD of the season last week and with it came the Spartans' first loss of the season. Daviess County beat South Warren 8-3 on Luke Bailey's 40-yard TD run and Chase Lecroy's two-point conversion.
■ Caldwell County is 7-0 after beating Green County 54-8. Junior QB Elijah Sindelar, who is being recruited by UK, threw for 294 yards and three TDs, pushing his season totals to 1,708 yards and 24 TDs. He's run for 289 yards and five TDs.
■ Mason County (6-0) hosts Russell (4-2) in what has become a big rivalry game in 3A. The Royals have had some bad luck in recent years when injuries have sabotaged their post-season hopes. So Coach David Buchanan focuses on the present and he likes what he sees. "I'm pleased with where we are for early October. I think our kids have played exceptionally well the last two games (in beating East Carter 50-7 and Lewis County 50-19). Those were two of the better games we've played here in a long, long time." Mason County's Rashon Nelson and Rico Hill have rushed for 1,200 yards and 15 TDs between them, and Jake O'Mara has thrown for 801 yards and six TDs.
■ Franklin County beat East Jessamine 45-0 last week for its 31st consecutive regular-season victory. Chris Tracy's Flyers have topped 50 points 20 times during that streak. Its lowest output was in a 28-24 win over Beechwood two weeks ago.
■ Fairview rallied for two TDs in the fourth quarter to beat Pike Central 44-37 for its 27th regular-season victory in a row. Armonde Yetts rushed for 280 yards and two TDs for the Eagles.
■ Chase Steele was a man of steel for East Carter in a 23-21 victory over West Carter. Steele ran for 300 yards and two TDs. He had 243 yards in the first half.
■ Madison Southern junior running back Damien Harris, who has committed to Michigan, had 274 yards and four TDs in a 44-6 win over Southwestern. Harris has rushed for 1,340 yards and 22 TDs in six games.
■ Frankfort boys' soccer will hold a 30-year celebration at Sower Soccer Complex on Saturday. The Panthers will play Henry Clay at 1 p.m., followed by a junior varsity game against Lafayette. Former Frankfort players will be honored. Sign-in for the ceremony will begin at 12:30.
■ Longtime North Hardin boys' basketball coach Ron Bevars announced his retirement last weekend. He is the fourth winningest coach in state history with 805 victories and 12 regional championships in 38 years. Bevars accepts the fact that he'll be remembered by most people for the way his Trojans lost the 1982 state championship game: Paul Andrews hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to give Laurel County a 53-51 victory. Soon after that Sweet Sixteen, Bevars recalled, a friend was putting together a videotape of that season's highlights. "He always called me 'Beavers' instead of Bevars, and he said. "Beavers, they'll always remember you. They'll forget the guys who won the state championship, but they'll always remember you.' That didn't sit well with me. That's all everybody wanted to talk about for years and years."
■ West Jessamine is the third school in a row to repeat as boys' state golf champion. St. Xavier won it all in 2008 and 2009; Lexington Christian took the title in 2010 and 2011, and now the Colts have gone back-to-back. West Jessamine was clutch down the stretch the last two years in beating St. X. Adam Young's Colts played the last five holes a collective 1-under par to St. X's 4-over this year, after outdueling the Tigers 2-under to 3-over in the same stretch last year. Fred Allen Meyer repeated as individual champ, a feat also accomplished by three of the most famous names in Kentucky golf: Bobby Nichols of St. X in 1953 and 1954; Gay Brewer of Lafayette in 1949 and 1950, and Johnny Owens of Henry Clay in 1943 and 1944. Other honors awarded at this year's tournament: Travis Bechtold of McCracken County got the Leachman Scholarship; Blake Cartwright of Clark County received the Forcht Bank Award for Uncommon Excellence, and Brett Bauereis of Covington Catholic got the Kentucky National Guard Best and Brightest Award.