Mark Story

Project preserves UK's magic moments

The face of Kentucky's basketball present is lending a hand to help preserve UK's sports past.

On Oct. 13, new UK basketball coach John Calipari will be the featured speaker at a fund-raising dinner in honor of the late Kentucky sports broadcaster Claude Sullivan.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Big Blue Sports Archives, a project between the University of Kentucky Libraries and the UK Athletics Association designed to preserve and make available to the public the university's ample sports history.

Old-timers will tell you that Sullivan, who did radio play-by-play work for both UK and the Cincinnati Reds, was every bit as good at calling a ball game as Cawood Ledford.

Back in the day, there was not a single "UK radio network" as now, but instead as many as five or six competing networks all broadcasting the Cats games.

Sullivan called the UK games for WVLK radio in Lexington and for stations around the state who picked up his Standard Oil radio network.

Ledford served a brief apprenticeship in Lexington, but made his name broadcasting Kentucky games on the 50,000 watts of WHAS in Louisville.

For years after it became apparent that UK would do better financially if it sold its radio rights to one bidder, the school would not do so.

The reason, according to lore, was that Kentucky athletics officials could not bear having to choose between Sullivan and Ledford as lead play-by-play man.

Then fate intervened.

In 1967, when Sullivan was at the height of his career doing both UK and the Reds, he died from throat cancer.

He was 42.

After his death, the broadcaster's family has worked to keep his legacy alive. They donated tapes of their father's UK radio calls to the university. Over the years, the broadcaster's two sons, David and Alan, have sought ways to make their father's work available to the public.

"The original collection was donated (to UK) by my mother in 1978," Alan Sullivan said recently. "I started trying to get the tapes restored and digitized, but I ran out of money. When Mom passed away, there was enough money left to go toward the project."

As it did with its oral history with longtime Cats basketball equipment manager Bill Keightley, the UK archive plans to make the Claude Sullivan Project available on the Internet.

The long-term goal for the university archive is to raise enough money to make its full collection of athletics memorabilia — 4,000 videotapes, 1,500 audiotapes, 10,000 photos and countless game programs, newspaper clippings etc. — accessible to the public.

"We've got so many materials that don't get used because people don't know about them," said University Archivist Deirdre A. Skaggs. "We're hoping we can raise enough money, eventually, to be able to change that."

The Oct. 13 event, to be held at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort, will feature a reception, dinner and program. A table for 10 costs $1,000; individual tickets are $115 (for information, call (859) 257-1742).

Did Tebow 'fence?'

On Aug. 30, I told you about University of Kentucky researcher Jonathan Lifshitz and his study on "The Fencing Response." It is a phenomenon observed in football players who suffered concussions from big hits.

Lifshitz noticed that frequently, just after the blow to the head was administered, there was an involuntary movement of an arm into a position similar to the en garde pose in fencing by the person who absorbed the hit.

Lifshitz was watching the Kentucky-Florida game on TV when Cats defensive end Taylor Wyndham delivered his crushing hit on Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.

After the collision, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner was down on the Commonwealth Stadium turf for an extended period. He was subsequently diagnosed with a concussion.

In the immediate aftermath of the hit, Tebow clearly exhibited the fencing response, Lifshitz said.

"Both his forearms are fencing," Lifshitz said.

A Ph.D who works in UK's Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center, Lifshitz said the student newspaper from the University of Florida called him last week for a story on Tebow and fencing.

The layman's explanation of why the fencing phenomenon occurs is that the impact on the part of the brain that causes a concussion also can affect a nearby area that controls arm movement.

Lifshitz said he hopes high school athletic trainers took note of how quickly the Florida training staff attended to Tebow.

"They did everything exactly the way it needed to be done," he said. "Hopefully, word gets out and the knowledge about 'fencing' and concussions helps trainers make better decisions on not returning players with concussions to a game."

Ex-Cats still Blue in D.C.

It is a long-standing tradition for the Washington D.C.-area chapter of the UK Alumni Association to gather for viewing of major Wildcats sporting events at the northern Virginia sports bar owned by former Cats basketball star Kevin Grevey.

For this year's Louisville football game, ex-Cats standouts Jeremy Jarmon and Andre Woodson, both of whom are drawing paychecks from the Washington Redskins, were on hand at Grevey's Sports Bar to watch.

"We were thrilled," said Shiela Corley, a vice president of UK's Nation's Capitol Region Alumni Chapter.

After Jarmon was selected by the Redskins in last summer's NFL Supplemental Draft, the D.C.-area UK alumni chapter sent him a "welcome to town" e-mail message that shared the tradition of gathering at Grevey's to view Kentucky football and basketball.

Jarmon showed up to watch UK's opener with Miami (Ohio), then brought Woodson with him for the Louisville game, Corley said. Ex-Kentucky basketball players were also well represented for the U of L game. In addition to Grevey, star of Kentucky's 1975 NCAA runners-up, late-1960s-era forward Cliff Berger was also there.

"We refer to Grevey's Sports Bar as our Commonwealth Stadium or Rupp Arena away from home," Corley said.