Sidelines with John Clay

College football is days away, but it has been a tough week

Some Wednesday notes:

Saturday being the official first full day of college football — Central Michigan at Kentucky, 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU — the anticipation of the fun and games has been tempered by the sobriety of real life. It has been a tough week.

Words cannot describe the devastation felt by the horse racing community over the death of Churchill Downs vice president John Asher, who died Monday of a heart attack at age 62 while vacationing with his family in Florida.

I first got to know John when he worked for WHAS radio in Louisville. No one loved the Kentucky Derby — or his beloved Western Kentucky Hilltoppers — more than John, so he was the perfect fit when he accepted a job with Churchill and quickly moved up the corporate ladder.

An all-around nice guy, John was an ambassador for the sport and the Downs. He was also an enthusiastic and thorough music fan. Last December, I ran into John at the Jason Isbell show at the Palace Theatre in Louisville and was not at all surprised to see him there.

The thought that we won’t see a smiling John Asher at Churchill for the Breeders’ Cup just doesn’t seem right

Then Tuesday was our first chance to talk to John Schlarman since Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops announced on media day, Aug. 3, the offensive line coach was dealing with a serious health issue.

Schlarman confirmed that he has been diagnosed with cancer, though he did not disclose the type. He has undergone two chemotherapy treatments, the second of which he received last Friday morning. Friday afternoon, he was back out on the field coaching.

As John said, he will receive treatments throughout the season and he doesn’t know what the future holds. He does know that football has offered a helpful distraction from his off-the-field battle. His example has served as an inspiration to his players.

“It teaches you how to be a man,” said sophomore center Drake Jackson on Tuesday. “He’s literally out here going through all that stuff and doing his job the way he’s done it since I’ve known him. And he doesn’t let you get emotional because then he’ll get on you. . . . It just shows you, this is how you do it.”

To the links:

How did Terry Wilson go about winning Kentucky’s starting quarterback job? Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader has the details. Touchdown Terry talked to the media for the first time Tuesday since being named the starter.

Central Michigan’s top player is running back Jonathan Ward. David Goricki of the Detroit News profiles the 1,000-yard back known as a fierce competitor who does not go down easily. (Remind you of anyone we know?)

Who are five UK football players ready for breakout seasons? Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal offers his opinion. Naasir Watkins, a candidate to replace injured starter Landon Young at left offensive tackle, is among Hale’s quintet.

UK has announced the date for distribution of Big Blue Madness tickets. Jerry Tipton reports distribution is set for Sept. 28. Madness is Oct. 12. Let the campout begin.

Mr. Recruiting, Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader, has all the updates about the top basketball prospects headed to town for their official visits.

The NCAA is one of the most morally corrupt organizations. Or so David Moon argues in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “Decades of academic fraud don’t violate NCAA rules, yet it is a violation for me to buy textbooks for a walk-on long-snapper. I’m glad the NCAA is focused on the important things,” he writes.

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