▪ There’s a reason Verne Lundquist was often called “Uncle Verne.” Watching SEC football on Saturday afternoons with the veteran Lundquist doing play-by-play was like watching the game with a family member — a family member you actually liked — who just enjoyed football and didn’t try to make himself the center of attention, a rare treat these days.
Sure, Lundquist made some technical mistakes, especially in the past few years. He’d get a name or a play wrong, but in the end who really cared? Along with analyst Gary Danielson, top shelf in my book, the Lundquist-Danielson team belonged at the top of the SEC standings, broadcasting Saturday’s biggest game before the biggest television audience right inside most everyone’s comfort zone.
All good things must come to an end, however. Tuesday brought the announcement the 75-year-old Lundquist is retiring at the end of the 2016 season. No surprise. Word had already leaked ESPN’s Brad Nessler was switching to CBS as Lundquist’s assumed successor. The always dapper Nessler is a good choice. He, too, is a pro’s pro with an easy play-by-play manner. Still, he won’t be “Uncle Verne.”
▪ Side note: Kentucky will have at least one football game as part of Lundquist’s farewell season. It was announced Wednesday the Cats’ game at Florida on Sept. 10 will be a 3:30 p.m. start broadcast by CBS.
▪ I know, the Cavs are well-rested. Unlike last year, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are healthy. LeBron James can finally fulfill his goal of bringing Believe-land a pro sports title. Sorry, Cleveland, not buying it. As they proved against Oklahoma City, the Splash Brothers are the Splash Brothers and the Warriors are the Warriors. Golden State in six.
▪ Reds fans, here’s your latest ray-of-hope report, straight from Cincinnati’s Double-A franchise, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos: After 10 starts, Amir Garrett has a 1.79 ERA. After six starts, Rookie Davis, acquired in the Aroldis Chapman deal, has a 1.59 ERA. After 10 starts, Jackson Stephens has a 3.14 ERA. After 18 appearances, Alejandro Chacin has a 0.83 ERA and nine saves.
▪ Meanwhile, at Triple-A Louisville, Cody Reed, acquired in the Johnny Cueto trade, has a 2.70 ERA after eight starts, and Robert Stephenson has a 3.28 ERA. And at High-A Daytona, Keury Mella, acquired in the Mike Leake trade, has a 2.64 ERA.
▪ At the SEC Spring Meetings, John Calipari, no fan of the SEC Tournament, pitched the idea of a preseason SEC Tournament in November. Thankfully, according to reports, the pitch went high and outside.
▪ Speaking of the SEC Spring Meetings, I remember one year I joked (in print) that the league athletic directors and presidents were all scuba diving and parasailing when not lounging on the beautiful Destin beach. The next time I talked to UK AD C.M. Newton, he let me know he didn’t like the joke. Then, in typical C.M. fashion, he asked me what I wanted to talk to him about.
▪ Did you see where Rick Pitino said the makeup of next year’s Louisville team reminds him of his 1996 national champion team at UK? Hyperbole is so unlike Rick.
▪ So the PGA is moving its event from Trump Doral resort to Mexico City in 2017. Who said the PGA doesn’t have a sense of humor?
▪ Before and after Gary Henderson resigned as UK’s baseball coach on Wednesday, I heard from people saying pitching coaches don’t make good college baseball head coaches. My rebuttal: Kevin O’Sullivan, head coach of No. 1-ranked Florida, who before going to Gainesville was the pitching coach for nine years at Clemson.
▪ So Jim Harbaugh is now taking shots at Nick Saban on Twitter over Saban’s criticisms of satellite camps. This time, Harbaugh may have bitten off more than he can chew.
▪ Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald tweeted Tuesday that the SEC will require its basketball teams to schedule non-conference opponents with three-year RPI averages of 175 or better.
Twitter user Marty Carter replied, “Does Mizzou have to cancel the Black-and-Gold Game?”