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Dismissing Thomas brothers slows UK football buzz

By LARRY VAUGHT

Since his arrival at Kentucky, it seems like everything has gone right for head football coach Mark Stoops.

He put together a much better than expected 2013 recruiting class in two months, has a historic class in the making for 2014 and drew over 50,000 fans to the Blue-White Game to end spring practice. The buzz around UK football has never been higher.

However, Stoops hit a small bump Thursday when he had to dismiss two players — brothers Pancho and Khalid Thomas of Florida — for what UK only confirmed was an unspecified violation of team rules. Lexington police said the two brothers were charged with possession of a controlled substance at 12:45 a.m. July 6.

Stoops had lost other players. Cornerbacks Jonathan Reed and Marcus Caffey were dismissed in January. Redshirt freshman running back Justin Taylor left in early May without ever playing for the Wildcats. Offensive lineman T.J. Jones was dismissed from the team in June.

Sophomore linebacker Demarius Rancifer decided to transfer after he was told he was not the kind of athlete to fit UK’s new defense. Sophomore receivers Bookie Cobbins and DeMarcus Sweat also transferred. So did freshmen cornerback Shawn Blaylock and safety Sterling Wright.

Out of those players, only Sweat had made significant contributions and his transfer probably had more to do with academic concerns than athletic questions. Caffey and Cobbins had off field problems.

But the Thomas brothers were expected to help this season.

At spring practice, Pancho Thomas positioned himself as Avery Williamson’s backup at a spot where UK has limited depth.

He said then the new coaching staff had instilled a new attitude in the team that went 2-10 last year.

“It is so different. It is like everybody wants to win. We are doing everything we can do to win,” Thomas said. “Everyone is competing every day. It’s a competition every practice. We are enjoying practice. We are out here giving it our all. You can see everyone buying into it. We are eating right, practicing right, training right. You can see the attitude has changed with everybody. Everybody has a winning attitude now.

“I am not really sure what made that change. I guess our coaches coming in and letting us know what they are expecting from us is what really made us change. We knew either you get on the boat, or you get left. That’s how it is. It’s lot better to be on the boat than by yourself.”

Now Thomas is off the boat along with his brother. Pancho Thomas had 12 tackles in limited action last year in 10 games. Khalid Thomas signed with the Wildcats in February after originally committing to coach Joker Phillips. He was ranked as the No. 35 athlete in the country in the class of 2013.

The same day news broke that the brothers had been kicked off the team, the Lexington Herald-Leader also reported that junior safety  Ashely Lowery was cited for DUI in connection with the car crash in May that left him hospitalized for several days. Kentucky officials said Stoops would let the legal process take its course before addressing Lowery’s situation. Lowery, who started eight games in 2012, was also cleared to resume limited workouts this week.

That’s not the kind of buzz that has surrounded UK football since Stoops’ arrival.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/dismissing-thomas-brothers-slows-uk-football-buzz/

15 comments

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  1. AndyP

    I suspect Ashley Lowrey learned a valuable lesson when he got tossed from that flying car. He was home for the summer and I would hope the near death experience is the only punishment he receives.

    Attrition is a fact of life when there’s a coaching change. UK is putting together the best recruiting class in school history and in order to sign 27 kids and remain under the 85 scholarship limit, some existing players have to go. The Thomas brothers are the latest of 10 to leave since Mark Stoops arrived.

  2. hawaiibillT

    He had to make a point to the team with the brothers. I expect that unlike Marshall Henderson Lowery will learn from his mistake and deserves no punishment.

  3. Larry Pup

    The Coach has to do what is right. He makes those choices. If players want to do drugs, drive automobiles drunk, and act out, disobey team rules, etc. then they have to pay the price for their behavior. They are given a free ride and a golden opportunity to succeed way more than the average student who has to pay his own way for an education. They were all told what to expect when Coach arrived. Is it good news? No, but it is part of building a solid program where all are expected to put team first. Based on the facts at hand, I commend our Coach.

  4. Kokamo Joe

    I say again. This is great news. It shows that Stoops is going to have a program that we can all be proud of. Drunken drivers and players using dope have no business on our football team. Stoops has proven that he values building the right kind of program over the immediate. That is good. That is very good.

  5. Ira

    I’m with Larry P, DUI is what it is. You punish for a controlled substance, you punish for driving under the influence. It was all a happy story till this came out. Now the coaching staff has a decision to make.

  6. Anonymous

    I’m ignorant on the topic, but it seems more athletes (and kids in general) than ever are hooked on the weed habit in HS and college.

  7. Tom

    I’m ignorant on the topic, but it seems more athletes (and kids in general) than ever are hooked on the weed habit in HS and college.

  8. Tcat

    I’m sorry but I don’t think you kick Lowery off the team. I think you let him know he won’t be given a third chance though… DUI’s should not be taken lightly I get that but the kid has suffered enough and always seemed to do the right thing, if he hasn’t learned his lesson he’s dumb…

  9. Little Baron

    Best to have any player(s) with drugs removed from the team. No need to have those type players anywhere around the NEW Wildcat team under our new coaching staff.

    Long term is better without distractions and criminal activities. Glad to see the cleaning house of Joker’s non-athletic left-overs and those prone to illegal activities. Building this team right! Good for Stoops & staff!

  10. J

    If you kick every kid out of a university that smoked pot, they wouldn’t have any students left in class.

  11. Anonymous

    At least Stoops didn’t react like a certain North Carolina coach and pretty much look the other way. It would depend a lot on the substance they had but I might see a way to re-instate the players if they proved something to me. They would have to do things off the field as well as on the field to show they were dedicated to the team. Of course the important thing is that they get their lives on track. Sometimes kids deserve a second chance. I just don’t know the situation well enough to say one way or another. I do trust the coaches and I will until I see some reason not to trust them. And to be honest this is a good indicator for them . They aren’t like Roy Boy and his Heels.

    I hope they can find a way to make things right. But that’s up to the coaches. Some things in life are more important than sports. I would like to think the coaches are thinking about what will help the kids the most whatever that might be.

    I’ve seen too many lives ruined by drugs (that includes all drugs which means pot too) to think it’s not serious. Clearly some drugs are worse than others. But the message does need to be sent that UK’s football team means business when it comes to being upstanding and a good example for the fans (of all ages). I do have to say I hope it works out but I’m a fan and maybe I want too much. The coaches know the situation. They were hired to do the job so I’m all for letting them do it.

  12. King Ghidora

    At least Stoops didn’t react like a certain North Carolina coach and pretty much look the other way. It would depend a lot on the substance they had but I might see a way to re-instate the players if they proved something to me. They would have to do things off the field as well as on the field to show they were dedicated to the team. Of course the important thing is that they get their lives on track. Sometimes kids deserve a second chance. I just don’t know the situation well enough to say one way or another. I do trust the coaches and I will until I see some reason not to trust them. And to be honest this is a good indicator for them . They aren’t like Roy Boy and his Heels.

    I hope they can find a way to make things right. But that’s up to the coaches. Some things in life are more important than sports. I would like to think the coaches are thinking about what will help the kids the most whatever that might be.

    I’ve seen too many lives ruined by drugs (that includes all drugs which means pot too) to think it’s not serious. Clearly some drugs are worse than others. But the message does need to be sent that UK’s football team means business when it comes to being upstanding and a good example for the fans (of all ages). I do have to say I hope it works out but I’m a fan and maybe I want too much. The coaches know the situation. They were hired to do the job so I’m all for letting them do it.

  13. grant

    Personally I believe it adds to the UK buzz, What do I mean? The Coach has not Coached a football game yet and has not made a mistake yet , ESPECIALLY , with this. I think it adds to the buzz because of the message it sends to future recruits and the parents. This does not come close to sullying anything Stoops has going, it is addition by subtraction and the positive message it conveys.

  14. AndyP

    When I said I didn’t think Ashley Lowrey should receive any further punishment I was referring to punishment from UK or Mark Stoops. The kid was home for the summer. It happened in the state of Georgia and I’m sure he was processed in the Georgia Criminal Justice system just like any other person charged with a DUI.

    If the kid didn’t learn a valuable lesson from the near death experience, he’s not smart enough to play major college football.

  15. Kokamo Joe

    Stoops is growing this program for the future. IMO he should be consistent. By that I mean, if he puts convicted drug users on the road, he should consider this for a DUI convicted player. Drinking while driving is not only dangerous, but it is a direct violation of the rules that I assume that the coach has established.

    I suspected that Joker Phillips ran a very loose ship. I am beginning to see that many of his players had some habits that he should have corrected. I am also beginning to see that Stoops had to make a culture change if this program is ever going to become something that we can be proud of.

    IMO Stoops should be backed and appreciated for the steps that he is taking to build something special.

    It is my hope that we realize that it will take time for this man to build our dream program. In other words, look for improvement in attitude and effort next year and not a great record.

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