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By LARRY VAUGHT

While former University of Kentucky basketball players continue to correctly praise John Calipari for the way he’s embracing them, many former UK football players continue to wonder why the same feeling is not always present for the football program.

Former players talk about a disconnect from the program even though current UK coach Joker Phillips certainly has made UK players now playing in the NFL welcome this summer and seems to be doing the right things to reach out to former Cats.

Here’s what former all-American quarterback Derrick Ramsey shared when I asked him about this.

Question: Should Kentucky do more to embrace former football players much like John Calipari is doing now in basketball?
Ramsey: “Absolutely. No question. You look around the country at all the great programs and their former players are involved. Hell, we are the ears and eyes across the country for the Kentucky program. We have to be involved for us to be successful. There’s no question about that, or shouldn’t be.”

Question: How frustrating is that?
Ramsey: “It’s very damn frustrating. Not speaking just for myself, but for guys period. I think Joker has started to understand that and from what I understand he wants to change that. He called and asked me to come back for the spring game but I already had a prior commitment, so I wasn’t able to make it.
“Everywhere you look around the country … look at Alabama, LSU, Ohio State … and all the great programs have guys from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s on the sideline on game day. That’s what it is all about. We have to put the same emphasis on football we do on basketball and I think Calipari is on the mark with that.”

Question: Do those schools you mention involve former players in game day activities with fans and current players?
Ramsey: “Both. When they see you, the fans have to be able to touch  you. The amazing thing about this is that fans want to know what you are doing, how you got to that point. It gives them an opportunity to stay in contact with you and for you to touch them. It lets you stay engaged in the program. It’s also interesting when I tell people that there was not one team in the conference that beat us more than we beat them while I was here.
“We split with Tennessee. Actually, Georgia did beat us two out of three years. We beat LSU three out of four, Florida three out of four. Vanderbilt every time. Mississippi State we split. Nobody dominated us. We dominated most of them. The fact we did it then, so hell yeah we can do it now. There’s no question we can do it.”

17 Responses to Derrick Ramsey says “it’s damn frustrating” that former UK football players are not more involved in the program

  • Ben says:

    Kentucky has never promoted football like it should! Joker can learn a lot by watching Cal! We should try to fill Commonwealth for the spring game. So much more can be done to promote KY Football.

    • larryvaught says:

      Derrick is indeed speaking for a lot of former players here. Most just don’t want to be quoted, but they feel the same way

  • Juan4UK says:

    wish i lived in Ky.

  • Dt5150 says:

    The UKAA could care less, they don’t want Derrick around knows he would be threat to be the next AD, as far as joker learning something from Cal, joker knows what the problem is he doesn’t get the support Cal does from the UKAA

    • larryvaught says:

      I think Joker is trying to reach out. Just takes time to soothe hard feelings and build back relationships with players from 30 years that feel they went ignored way too many times

  • TheProfessor says:

    this is a very sad commentary about the commitment of the UKAA to the football program. One of the things missing with the basketball program prior to Calipari was a connection between the current program players and coaches to the former coaches and players. Calipari started correcting that almost immediately, and it is clear that Calipari’s approach is the preferred one.

    Why wouldn’t that naturally carry over to the football program, and all former players? Mr. Ramsey is a prime example of that, and now he speaks out. Add to that Larry’s statement that many other former football players feel the same way, but are reluctant to speak on the record.

    I believe that Joker and Mitch should be asked to address this issue immediately in two ways.

    1. Explain to the big blue nation why that relationship with former players does not exist for football, and
    2. What steps will the UKAA and the Football program take this season to correct that issue.

  • Ira says:

    Derrick is right, everytime I watch a spring game from another SEC team there is always former players going back to bygone years. They are easily accessible to the fans for autographs. They are on the sidelines talking to the players. You see the young men that just made it into the draft on the sidelines on the spring games. You don’t think that doesn’t help with recruiting? Duh.

    UK’s media market doesn’t market UK football worth a darn. A HS marketing program could do better.

  • Shinny says:

    There is no question Joker and Barnhart need to reach out to these ex-cats. Some has been done during the season with introduction being made at quarter breaks or other time-outs during the games. Show them on the sidelines on the new screens or better yet have them walk along with the team during “cat walk” and the fans can see them up close and rope off an area under the stands outside the locker room where the fans can see them up close and get autographs. Something more needs to be done for sure—”tradition never graduates” let’s get it started. How long before kickoff?

  • TheProfessor says:

    28 days from tonight, the Cats will kick off the new season.

  • Andy P. says:

    Larry, the next time you interview Joker, he will tell you all he’s done to reach out to the former players. I’m sure it will frustrate him to see Derrick’s comments. I’ve heard Joker speak on this subject numerous times. He know the importance of involving the former players.

  • EastKyBlue says:

    It’s going to take more than Joker to achieve this. No marketing help whatsoever, but we can hear endlessly about an exhibition basketball game in August where we have to pay to see out-of-work millionaires play ball against the Jamaican bobsled team. UKAA needs to be right beside Joker bringing these players in. Remember, football is the number one revenue producing sport for UK. It deserves to be treated as such.

  • Cosmo W. says:

    Pretty interesting coments from Derrick Ramsey, wanting more past UK football players to come back and be involved, since he admited at the Governor’s Cup press conference last week he only saw one UK football game last year…….. Hell I live in Tennessee and was able to at least watch every game, either on TV or go to the game. Yes, he is an A.D. for Coppin State in Baltimore, but they don’t have a football team, come on….. I am for Ramsey and hope he will start to take a lead in getting former players to support the program AND attend games when possible.

    • larryvaught says:

      Ram has a lot of other obligations as AD, but I am telling you I could give you a long list of players who feel like him and have problems getting tickets, parking passes, invites to special events, invites to practice. Now this all goes back way before Joker just like some UK basketball issues did well before Cal.

  • Gerry says:

    Larry,as one of those old UK football players,I am not sure what Derrick means!My class of 63-4-5,kind of takes care of our own reunions.We co-ordinate a specific game,this year,being the Miss St game,and fly or drive in to Lexington,and renew our friendships.We have some of our brothers who live in the Lexington area take care of the details.
    We all do not sit together,and I guess that is due maybe to K-club,but we all meet before and after for some good food and refreshments,and Joker usually finds us somewhere.
    I have to say that seeing my team mates brings tears.They are my brothers since we lived together for 4 years,and we have lost 3 of them in the past few years.
    I admire Derrick,and hope to see him again at UK in some capacity.

  • Sec 132 says:

    I agree with Derrick but I think UK has some unique issues. We have had numerous head coaches at UK and little continuity or sustained success. We have also been on probation twice which does not leave a great taste in players’ mouths. I think if there is a list of former Uk greats that are dying to come help the UK program like Derrick then we are truly missing the boat but if we are looking for players to come back that only had the success of Ramsey winning 10 games in a season the list will be very short. My question is does this support exist? Since many of these former players did not receive the national notiriety or fame or professional contract that the basketball players receive are they less likely to return? On the other hand we graduate 20 or so football players per year and only 3-4 basketball players. I would be curious to see who is really to blame and if Mitch is in any way shape or form discouraging players from coming back that is an enormous mistake.

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