A UK Football Admission
Two things to start with.
First, I’m not as apocalyptic about the UK football team as a lot of (most?) people. Nobody other than the most optimistic fans had predicted that they would be any better than 4-5 right now and that’s what they are. They have three of the seven most winnable games of the season left on the schedule. Will they win them all? Who knows? Will they win at least two of them? I think the answer is still yes. Could they lose all three? Sure. Anything is possible. I just prefer to jump off bridges as I get to them, not before.
Second, I’m not a journalist. I have described myself a lot of ways over the course of the seven years I’ve hosted Community Trust Bank Sunday Morning Sports Talk on NewsRadio 630 WLAP. Most commonly that description has included “button pushing chimp,” but never journalist. It’s not that I don’t have a ton of respect for journalists, I absolutely do. I tried to journalist once. It was a complete nightmare and I hated it. I probably won’t journalist again soon. What I am — and the other thing I have regularly described myself as — is a fan who was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do, which is host a radio show.
The second point is the most important here. As a fan, I’ve never claimed to be truly impartial. I hope that I am fair, but I’ve never been impartial. I want Kentucky to do well. I want the people a Kentucky to do well.
The people part is what made this week’s show maybe one of the most difficult I’ve had to do.
It’s no secret that the Kentucky offense has struggled in its most recent three games. Especially after the last two weeks. Come show time that meant a lot of fan anger directed at the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. They happen to be the two coaches I’m least impartial about.
Regular show listeners may find it hard to believe I like much of anything, much less people, but it’s not true. I like a lot of people. Well, I like a handful of people. Shannon Dawson and John Schlarman are two of them. One of them I know only a little. One I’ve known what seems like forever.
I always find it funny when I get a chance to be on Insiders Roundtable on Big Blue Insider with Dick Gabriel. Not funny because the table is always rectangular, but funny because I don’t consider myself an insider. My work schedule keeps me from almost all media availabilities. I haven’t spoken directly to a player in forever and I rarely get a chance to talk to coaches, certainly not one on one.
Before this season started though, I got to interview Dawson for a story I wrote for the JMI preseason magazine. He was engaging, at times funny and gave straight answers to sometimes good and sometimes less good questions. He was eager to discuss his coaching philosophies. He said he was originally interested in science and only became interested in football as a career when his coach, Dana Holgorsen, showed him how to approach it as more of a mental game.
I was headed to work after the interview and had a logo shirt on. He asked me about the logo and after the interview and though his schedule was tight, we talked for another 10 minutes about Special Olympics. He talked about an eagerness to get involved in the community. I gave him my card and two days later I had a text from him. When the Special Olympics teams visited the UK football facility during the preseason, he was there asking questions, wanting to know about the program, the athletes and how Special Olympics works. I became a fan.
I first met Schlarman in probably 1990 he was 12-ish. His sister played basketball for Northern Kentucky University and I worked in the sports information office and called games on radio. The Schlarman family traveled to every road game. I had known his older brother (who played at NKU) and another sister (a student there) for longer. John and I would occasionally shoot baskets before the teams came out. I first saw him play when his Highlands team came to the Thoroughbred Bowl at Tates Creek his senior year. Schlarman and one of his Highlands teammates spent the game getting up off of Billy Jack Haskins (who they pummeled mercilessly that night) before all three signed to play at UK. In Schlarman’s senior year at UK, I was assigned his feature story for the game program. I was thrilled when he had the opportunity to come back to coach in Lexington, close to his family. He is a terrific guy. I am an unabashed fan.
So as the calls rolled in Sunday, I hated the fact that we were having to discuss guys I know either a little or a lot, and who I like a great deal. It was a first for me.
The next three games are critical for the Wildcats and their coaches. Win two, go to a bowl, a lot of the struggles of the last three weeks will be forgotten. Short of that, and maybe even if they succeed in that, there may be changes to the Kentucky coaching staff after the season. As a fan of the Wildcats I support anything that makes the program better. As a fan of Dawson and Schlarman, I hope neither are involved in those changes. I hope both have long, successful careers in Lexington.