While Stoops certainly has a right to choose where he will or will not speak — and he is not one who seems to overly enjoy public speaking — there are several issues here.
First, those who sponsored the event or agreed to pay to play golf thinking the head coaches would be there have to be disappointed. The event’s website Monday still read “join Governor Beshear and the head coaches for a day of golf” in Louisville.
Second, I feel bad for the honorees from both schools. Former Louisville players Larry Ball, Roman Oben and Chris Redman will be honored along with former Cats Wilbur Hackett, Warren Bryant and Dean Wells.
I feel especially bad for Hackett, who played at UK from 1968-70 and was the first African-American to be named a team captain and one of the first African-American football players in the Southeastern Conference. Armed guards once had to protect him during a game against Ole Miss. He was a three-year starting linebacker at UK, making him the first African American to start in any sport at UK.
His role in integrating the SEC — along with three other African-American teammates — has largely been overlooked. even at UK. There has been a push lately by some of Hackett’s former teammates to have a monument at UK honoring him and teammates Nat Northington, Houston Hogg and Greg Page for their part in integrating UK athletics and the SEC. There’s even talk of a potential movie.
Crane said Kentucky athletic officials will be at the luncheon in honor or Hackett, Bryant — perhaps the best offensive lineman ever to play at UK — and Wells. Still, this controversy again takes away from the recognition for Hackett, Bryant and Wells and that’s unfortunate.
And as one who had attended every Governor’s Cup luncheon to hear the head coaches, visit with assistant coaches from both schools and start the UK-Louisville hype, it’s easy to see why having the game to close the season makes the event no longer feasible in its current format.
However, it’s still also sad to see an event that has promoted charitable endeavors and raised awareness for UK and Louisville football just go away.