Mark Story

The Mark Stoops decision that keeps paying off for Kentucky football recruiting

How important was it for Kentucky football to sign in-state players?

At a press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talked about the importance of signing players from inside the state. UK signed five players from Kentucky, including four from Louisville on Wednesday.
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At a press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talked about the importance of signing players from inside the state. UK signed five players from Kentucky, including four from Louisville on Wednesday.

Fast-break points from summer vacation:

21. Jordan Watkins. The class of 2020 Butler High School wide receiver committed to Kentucky on Saturday over an offer from hometown Louisville.

20. Izayah Cummings. The class of 2020 Male High School wide-out committed to Kentucky on Sunday over offers from hometown Louisville, plus Purdue, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Virginia and others.

19. Mark Stoops. Last year, the Kentucky head coach assigned ace recruiter Vince Marrow to the city of Louisville. That decision has yielded boffo returns for UK.

18. Wearing out I-64 east. Marrow got four class of 2019 Louisville prospects, linebackers Jared Casey, Shawnkel Knight-Goff and J.J. Weaver plus wide-out Tae Tae Crumes, to choose UK. Besides Watkins and Cummings, Kentucky also has a class of 2020 verbal commitment from Christian Academy of Louisville offensive tackle John Young.

17. Matching seven. Before getting seven over the past two recruiting classes, Kentucky had signed seven total football prospects from Jefferson County combined for all the years from 2009-2018.

16. Carl Nathe. After more than 29 years as a University of Kentucky publicist, Nathe, 66, is retiring from his full-time position effective July 4.

15. Kroger Field p.a. announcer. A former WLEX sports anchor, Nathe is probably best known to the public for his work as the public address announcer for UK football games.

14. Firrrrrrst Down, Kentucky!!! Nathe says his signature call that follows the Wildcats moving the chains will not be impacted by his retirement because he plans to continue doing the Kroger Field p.a. job.

13. Radio interviews, too. Nathe says he also will still do the “UK at the Half” interviews with campus news makers that run at intermission on the radio broadcasts of Wildcats football and men’s basketball games.

Carl Nathe
Carl Nathe, left, interviewed former Taylor County star Clem Haskins, during the 2015 Boys’ Sweet Sixteen. Herald-Leader

12. Still at UK. Nathe says he will still be working for the University of Kentucky in a part-time role. “They’ve been kind enough to let me continue with some of the things I really enjoy doing,” he says.

11. Bellarmine to Division I. The 3,500-student Catholic university in Louisville announced last week it is moving from NCAA Division II to Division I in all sports.

10. Play the Kentucky Wildcats in basketball? “We would love that,” Bellarmine men’s hoops coach Scott Davenport says of potentially coming to Rupp Arena. “I have spoken to (John Calipari) in the past on the recruiting trail about (possible) exhibition games. We’d love a chance to play (a regular-season game).”

9. Other state teams, too. Davenport says Bellarmine will be willing to play any of Kentucky’s other seven D-I schools. “There’s not more class basketball anywhere in the country than right here,” he says.

Scott Davenport
Scott Davenport coached Bellarmine to the 2011 NCAA Division II national title. ASSOCIATED PRESS

8. NCAA Tournament history. The state of Kentucky just missed sending five teams to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time ever in 2019 when Western Kentucky lost to Old Dominion in the Conference USA Tournament finals.

7. Four is tops. With Kentucky, Louisville, Murray State and Northern Kentucky, the commonwealth settled for four teams in 2019 March Madness. It was only the third time (1995 and 2012) that our state put four teams in the Dance.

6. Six in the future? Once Bellarmine finishes its transition and is eligible to represent the ASUN Conference in the NCAA tourney in 2024-25, the state of Kentucky will have a chance to place teams in March Madness from six different leagues: The SEC (UK), ACC (Louisville), C-USA (WKU), OVC (Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and/or Murray State) and the Horizon League (NKU) plus the ASUN.

5. 66,000. When Jerry Carroll and the original Kentucky Speedway ownership group opened the Sparta racetrack, its grandstands had a capacity of 66,000 fans.

4. 106,000. When Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc., bought Kentucky Speedway and moved a Cup Series date here in 2011, the grandstands in Sparta were expanded to 106,000.

3. 87,000. In 2017, SMI reduced the Kentucky Speedway seating capacity to 87,000 seats.

Kentucky Speedway grandstand.JPG
The seating capacity in the Kentucky Speedway grandstands has gone from 66,000 to 106,000 to 87,000 and will be down to 70,000 for the 2019 Quaker State 400. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

2. 70,000. When the green flag drops on the 2019 Quaker State 400 July 13 around 7:30 p.m., Kentucky Speedway’s grandstands will hold no more than 70,000.

1. Mark Simendinger. “There’s a movie called Back to the Future,” the Kentucky Speedway general manager says of the track returning to near its original size. “(Less seating) is the reality of the live sports world and the motorsports world as it exists today.”

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.
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