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Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein dunks during the first half of an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal college basketball tournament game against the Louisville Friday, March 28, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein dunks during the first half of an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal college basketball tournament game against the Louisville Friday, March 28, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

By LARRY VAUGHT

INDIANAPOLIS — Louisville coach Rick Pitino said because of all the celebrating Louisville has done the last three years, he wanted his team to be “gracious in defeat” after falling to Kentucky 74-69 Friday night in the NCAA Midwest Region.

“We don’t like losing to Kentucky certainly, but you’ve got to give them credit,” Pitino said.

“Look, they’re playing great down the stretch.  Should be a heck of a matchup (with Michigan Sunday).  They’re going to be very tough to beat, very tough to beat, because you’ve got to play great defense, like we did tonight in the first half, to beat them.

“And I don’t know how many teams are capable of doing that against them, because if you do help they’ll burn you like that (when Aaron Harrison hit a late 3-pointer).  We shouldn’t have helped on that play.”

 

Kentucky's Alex Poythress and Aaron Harrison, right, celebrate after an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal college basketball tournament game against the Louisville Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Indianapolis. Kentucky won 74-69. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Kentucky’s Alex Poythress and Aaron Harrison, right, celebrate after an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal college basketball tournament game against the Louisville Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Indianapolis. Kentucky won 74-69. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — OK, so maybe they’re not the quickest learners. Still, the kids at Kentucky figured out Louisville just in time.

Aaron Harrison hit a 3-pointer for the go-ahead score with 39 seconds left and Julius Randle made a pair of clutch free throws to lift the fantastic freshman of Kentucky to a 74-69 victory over their in-state rivals.

The eighth-seeded Wildcats (27-10) led for a grand total of 65 seconds in this Midwest Regional semifinal. They’ll play Michigan on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.

Few expected a run this deep as this season played out and Kentucky’s five freshmen starters struggled to play a team game. But they’ve been learning slowly. Trailing by seven with 4½ minutes left, things kicked in again.

Actually, it was a sophomore, Alex Poythress, who scored five points in a 7-0 run that tied the game at 66 with 2:11 left. Then, it was the Kentucky freshmen who showed all the poise against the defending national champs, led by seniors Russ Smith (23 points) and Luke Hancock (19).

Harrison took a pass from Julius Randle and spotted up in the corner for the go-ahead shot. Both finished with 15 points, as did yet another freshman starter, Dakari Johnson.

On the next possession, Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear got fouled. The 71 percent career free throw shooter missed the first. Randle came down and made two free throws to put Kentucky ahead by three. Smith missed a tough look at a 3-pointer on the next possession and a few seconds later, the Wildcats were chest bumping and coach John Calipari was pumping his fists to a loud stadium full of blue.

This was the ultimate lesson in patience for a team that, for so long, had trouble showing any.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who fell to 11-1 in Sweet 16 games, produced a matchup zone that the Wildcats had trouble working through.

The Cards led by as many as 13 in the first half, yet went to halftime only up three despite holding Kentucky to 33 percent from the floor.

Making this win even more impressive for the Wildcats: They played almost the entire game without Willie Cauley-Stein, an NBA-caliber forward who sprained his left ankle early. And James Young, who also might go pro, fouled out with 5:32 left.

That left it to Harrison, his twin brother, Andrew (14 points) and Randle, a lottery pick in waiting who was a monster inside. He had 12 rebounds to go with the 15 points. He’s had a double-double in all three tournament games.

Now, who’s to say the Wildcats can’t go all the way?

Calipari makes no apologies for recruiting the best talent and taking his chances they’ll leave before they really set up shop at Kentucky. That strategy helped him bring the eighth national title back home two years ago. Then, Louisville won it last year. Now, Kentucky is a win away from the program’s 16th trip to the Final Four.

KENTUCKY 74, LOUISVILLE 69

KENTUCKY (27-10): Young 3-8 3-4 9, Aa. Harrison 3-13 6-6 15, An. Harrison 4-11 5-6 14, Randle 5-11 5-6 15, Johnson 7-10 1-2 15, Lee 0-0 0-0 0, Polson 0-0 0-0 0, Cauley-Stein 0-0 0-0 0, Poythress 2-2 2-3 6, Hawkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 22-27 74.

LOUISVILLE (31-6): Smith 9-20 4-10 23, Jones 2-5 2-2 6, Hancock 6-9 4-4 19, Harrell 7-9 1-3 15, Van Treese 0-0 0-0 0, Rozier 0-3 0-0 0, Gill 0-0 0-0 0, Mathiang 1-3 1-2 3, Blackshear 1-4 1-2 3, Agau 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-53 13-23 69.

Halftime_Louisville 34-31. 3-Point Goals_Kentucky 4-14 (Aa. Harrison 3-7, An. Harrison 1-4, Randle 0-1, Young 0-2), Louisville 4-15 (Hancock 3-5, Smith 1-7, Jones 0-1, Blackshear 0-2). Fouled Out_Harrell, Van Treese, Young. Rebounds_Kentucky 37 (Randle 12), Louisville 29 (Harrell 8). Assists_Kentucky 8 (An. Harrison 7), Louisville 11 (Smith 3). Total Fouls_Kentucky 19, Louisville 24. A_41,072.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

uk v louisville logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel graduated from Kentucky and worked under Pitino there. He said he’ll be pulling for Louisville.

“I’m extremely proud of Frank,” Pitino said. “He’s done it the right way, worked his way up the right way. Was one of the best workers I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Knew how to do it, is doing a fabulous job there. And he told me last year, at a game, he said: Coach, we’re going to get back and we’re going to win this darn thing.

“And although he carries himself very humbly, he has great confidence in the Pacers and what they’re going to do. I’m super excited. I’m a big Pacer fan, excited to see what he’s going to do.”

uk v louisville logoBy LARRY VAUGHT

INDIANAPOLIS — Depending on whether you are a Kentucky fan or a Louisville fan, it’s easy to find reasons why your favorite team will win Friday night’s NCAA Midwest Region showdown here.

Kentucky beat Louisville 73-66 on Dec. 28 in Rupp Arena. Since then, the Cardinals have won 20 of 23 games and many thought deserved to be better than a No. 4 seed. Kentucky never took off after that win over the Cardinals the way many expected and stumbled down the stretch of regular season play before finding new life in the postseason and knocking off No. 1 seed Wichita State last weekend.

One plus for Kentucky would seem to be rebounding. Kentucky is the second best offensive rebounding team in the country — and best left in the NCAA — thanks to Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Louisville has not been good on the defensive glass as it gives up offensive rebounds on 32.4 percent of all opportunities — 230th in Division I and only Connecticut among teams left in the NCAA was worse.

However, Montrezl Harrell has averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds over the last 10 games and shot 60 percent from the field. He had a double-double in both NCAA tourney wins. Against Kentucky, though, he managed just six points (he took only two shots) and four rebounds.

Louisville’s edge should be quickness with a smaller lineup.

“As far as quickness goes, I think we’ve also been doing a great job of our bigs hitting the glass as well,” Louisville All-American guard Russ Smith said. “And as far as Kentucky goes, I think they’ve been doing a better job handling pressure. So it’s all a matter of who is going to be the better team tomorrow.”

Louisville’s defense can also be suffocating at times as the Cardinals have held 16 of 36 foes to 60 or fewer points, including seven of the last 13. Louisville also has had at least nine steals in both NCAA tourney wins this year. Louisville has also taken care of the ball well with single digit turnovers in nine of the last 15 games.

Kentucky can counter with the best sustained 3-point shooting of the season in postseason play by Andrew Harrison, James Young and Aaron Harrison. They are a combined 43 percent from 3-point range and 78 percent at the foul line.

In the first meeting between the teams, Kentucky was 3-for-14 from 3-point range and Randle played just four minutes the second half due to leg cramps. He took no shots and had no rebounds after scoring 17 points and grabbing two rebounds in the first half.

“I don’t know if it was a mismatch or anything. I was just kind of feeling it,” Randle said. “Just my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball at spots where I can attack. I was just aggressive. As far as the cramping thing, I hope that’s behind me. I mean, I haven’t cramped in a little while. Knock on wood.”

Kentucky fans have to figure if Randle stays out of foul trouble, he can dominate inside, especially since the Cardinals no longer have Chane Behanan on the roster — and he was the best defender on Randle in the December game.  But UK coach John Calipari warned that Louisville’s improved matchup zone could find a way to neutralize Randle.

Louisville was just 6-for-26 from 3-point range in the UK loss. Russ Smith was 0-for-5. Luke Hancock, who got plenty of open looks, was 2-for-8. While Smith has struggled shooting in the NCAA, Hancock is 6-for-17 from 3-point range. If they make 3-point shots this time, Louisville has to feel the outcome will be different.

With Randle watching the second half (he didn’t play the final 11 minutes), UK got stellar play from point guard Andrew Harrison. He had six points during a 15-4 run after Randle went out for good and finished with a then career-high 18 points.

Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young were also big contributors to UK’s win. Cauley-Stein had just two points, but he grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots. Young was just 5-for-17 from the field, but he also got 10 rebounds.

“We’re completely different (than the first Louisville game). We’re not the same team,” Cauley-Stein said. “We are a lot better than we were that day. We’re more of a team now. We’re not playing as individuals any more. We’re sharing the ball. Everybody has found his own role and how to fill it. It’s all fit together finally. Nobody is doing their own thing. We’re a cohesive team now.”

Hancock feels the same way.

“I think we were struggling to kind of find an identity at that point. A lot of changes to our team since then. And I think it’s been for the better. I think guys are kind of filling into their roles and know what they have to do to make our team better,” Hancock said.

Calipari thinks it could be another special game like UK’s win over previously unbeaten Wichita State Sunday because of the way both teams are playing.

“They’ve settled into a groove of how they’re going to play, how they’re creating shots for each other, how they’re creating turnovers,” Calipari said. “And when you watch them, they’re playing really good basketball. Everybody on their team has settled in to what they have to do for their team to win. They’re playing extremely hard and playing with great energy, playing physical, not afraid to bump and grind whether it’s inside/outside. They’re a good team. They’re a really good team. And, again, of all the teams left, they may be playing better than anybody.”

By LARRY VAUGHT

INDIANAPOLIS — Ask almost anyone in Kentucky and they’ll agree that coaches John Calipari of Kentucky and Rick Pitino of Louisville are not friend and don’t get along well.

However, both coaches did their best to refute that perception here Thursday as their teams get set to meet in the NCAA Midwest Region semifinals Friday night. Both are on eight-game NCAA win streaks — Kentucky with six from its 2012 championship season and two this year and Louisville six from last year’s title season and two this year. Louisville’s last tourney loss was to UK in the 2012 Final Four.

“I don’t care about perception because perception is not reality. We’re friends.  We respect each other’s programs very much and we’re friends in this business,” said Pitino. “And I certainly have great respect for what they’re accomplishing right now. But it really doesn’t matter what perception is because perception is not reality in this world.”

Calipari said they were “friends” also and keep in “touch throughout the year back and forth” with each other, which probably surprises both UK and Louisville fans.

“He’d throw something at me, I’d throw something at him. Different things about our teams,” Calipari said. But, one, we’re getting older, both of us, and I think I’m not on his mind and he’s not on my mind, so to speak. We all got tough jobs, what we’re doing.

“I know that he’s a great coach. He’s done it at different programs. His kids play with great energy and they play with confidence, and it’s every year. And so the stuff about they’re at each other’s throats, it’s just not accurate. I’d be stunned if he thinks of me in a week, like my …  both of us have tough jobs that we have to be engulfed in what we do.”

Pitino agreed coaching at rival schools could impact their relationship.

“I think it hurts a little bit because you all (in the media) bait and try to get certain answers out of us. And if John says, ‘I like a certain thing,’ some people think he’s taking a shot at me, vice versa. It’s not that we’ve talked about it together about that. He’s the total opposite with me with social media. And I know he believes in it and he knows I don’t believe in it. So we’re not taking sides on that. (Michigan State coach) Tom Izzo doesn’t believe in it, maybe somebody else does.

“We understand what takes place between the lines. We understand the fans’ intensity, but we don’t personalize our battles. We understand what it’s all about. The best team’s going to win.”

Pitino told again how he first met Calipari when the current UK coach was a teenager at the Five-Star Camp and Pitino was a camp coach. He then defended the year Calipari has had (26-10) with a team that starts five freshmen.

“Two weeks ago I was asked by the Louisville media what do I think of the rumors of John going back to the pros. I said why would you say something like that? Because they lost a game,” Pitino said. “He’s one of the premier coaches in our game. Has always been. The thing that I remember most about John, because I’ve known him since he was 15, is he always didn’t have one‑and‑dones. He had a team at Massachusetts, and I knew where he took them.

“And he had the least amount of talent on the court when he went out there. And he didn’t play an easy schedule. He had to take a lot of people on to get Massachusetts in the limelight. I’ve seen all stages of John’s career.

“And so it doesn’t surprise me that they’re playing well at this time. It was a great game the other night by both teams.  I know how good Wichita (State) is. Now they’re a much better offensive time this year than last year, much better defensive team. Wichita is a great basketball team. Kentucky beat a great basketball team (to advance).”

Because Pitino coached at Kentucky — and won a national title — before coming to Louisville and winning another title, he knows the significance this game has for the state.

“We’ve gotten used to the noise, so we don’t … we understand what’s at stake,” Pitino said. “I’ve said it many times. I’ve been in the state 20 years, and the game to me has really only had difficult consequences for the loser twice. Once was two years ago when they stopped our run in the Final Four, and the next game we play (here).”

Click on the photo of Mark Kennard to hear him talk about son Luke's recruiting.

Click on the photo of Mark Kennard to hear him talk about son Luke’s recruiting.

By LARRY VAUGHT

FRANKLIN, Ohio — If the pressure of being one of the top players in the 2015 recruiting class is bothering Luke Kennard, the 6-5 guard sure isn’t letting it show.

“I am having a great time with it actually. I don’t feel a lot of pressure on the court or having to prove myself to people. At the same time all the attention and stuff is not just good for me, but for the community as well. I am having a great time,” said the Franklin High School standout.

The numbers certainly reflect why he’s having such a good time. He’s averaging 39.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He’s shooting 83.4 percent at the foul line, 51.7 percent from the field and 40 percent at from 3-point range. In 17 games, he’s scored 40 or more points nine times, including a school-record 53 against Bellbrook Jan. 4.

He’s that rare player who can score that many points and still be the most popular player on the team — or maybe in the school.

“That is just the great thing about being part of this team. We are all really close to each other. It is a small town but that is why I love being part of it. Our team chemistry is great. Coach (Brian) Bales really pushes for that. As a player you have to always get your teammates involved and what I always try to do,” Kennard said.

“Game night is very special to be part of here at Franklin. All the people in this community come out to support us. It’s great to have all the support. Usually when we go to an away game we might bring the bigger crowd than the home team, and that’s special. It is usually packed, the gym is hot and often sold out and that’s great to be part of as a high school player.”

His best friend on the team is Evan Crowe, a likely college player himself who averages almost 16 points per game and often benefits from the double or triple teams that Kennard draws.

“He is a great person. He is just really fun to be around and I love him,” Crowe said. “We used to battle back and forth when we were little. I had a basketball court in my yard and we used to play football all the time. We have been together forever. It’s like we never really switched and it was like, ‘Wow, I am playing with some major college athlete all of a sudden.’

“Then it was like going into eighth grade I was like, ‘Man this guy is pretty good. My friend is a good player.’ I think a lot of people see us play because they want to come watch him. It’s always fun to play in front of big crowds like that. If you get  open, he will find you. Everybody wants to help off on him because you can’t let him beat you. He will have three people on him, and then he w ill find the open guy and get it to you, so what’s not like about that.”

Scott Daniels has a son, Jake, that plays on the team and says he has known Kennard since he was in the first grade.

“Great kid, great student. He’s a really humble kid. He is a class act,” Daniels, who used to help coach Kennard’s team in third through sixth grades, said.

Daniels says there’s “absolutely” no  jealousy about Kennard’s success that has brought a bevvy of big-time coaches to Franklin such as Kentucky’s John Calipari, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Ohio State’s Thad Matta and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.

“Every night after every games when Luke is interviewed the first thing that he does is thank his teammates. He is always thanking his parents, coaches,” Daniels said. “It is not just all about Luke. Luke is a team player and always has been that way. I can’t say enough. Just a great, great child.

“Luke can do it all and he can jump out of the gym. He is a 6-5 lefty. He can get hot. The other night he had 7 3-pointers. If you lay off him a little bit, he will stroke you from the outside. If you belly up, he will take you to the rack. He is just an outstanding player. He is the best that has been around here in a lot of years.

“Luke’s basketball IQ is his biggest asset. He knows the basketball game inside and out. This year he is averaging 40 points a game and still is the most unselfish basketball player you have ever seen. If a kid is willing to work and get open, Luke will find a way to get him the ball. He is just a class act that way and one reason he’s so special. There are just really not enough words to describe Luke. He is the most humble kid, straight A student, just an all-around great kid.”

Kennard said he has enjoyed being around most of his teammates all his life and his father and Crowe’s father even played basketball together.

“They grew up as best friends. Me and Evan and are really good friends too. They (the fathers) will give us some advice now on our game, but coach Bales been great with that.”

Kennard, who grew up a Kentucky fan, admits he never expected this type of attention when his high school career started.

“I had to put in a lot of sacrifices to try and get better as a player. Once I started getting a lot of attention and college looks, it was like a dream come true,” he said. “I am having a great time with it all. The media and stuff, as it all started happening I don’t know if I would say it was overwhelming, but it was a lot with that and the college coaches. But I enjoyed it and I enjoy it now. College coaches are great with it. My dad and coach Bales will take some calls for me.”

Kennard is a big unique because he can handle the ball with both hands. He primarily shoots left-handed, but will shoot with his right hand if he’s moving that way toward the basket. In football, he set school passing records and throws right-handed.

“It’s just what I’ve always done,” Kennard said.

His father, Mark, worked extensively with him to make him learn to use both hands. He would sometimes make him dribble home from the gym while he followed along in the car. Another story had him “tying” one hand behind his son to force him to dribble with the other hand.

“Those are true stories except he didn’t tie my hand. He made me put one hand behind my back, though,” Kennard said.

Yet he always respected his dad’s methods — or at least he did most days.

“There might have been some days I would get upset with him, but everybody was telling me when I got older I would thank him for that, and they were right,” Kennard said. “But we worked on shooting a lot, too. We would go to gym and make 100 shots before I was done. So it was not only just ballhandling he worked on with me, but shooting too.”

Luke Kennard Photo by Nick Falzerano

Luke Kennard Photo by Nick Falzerano

By LARRY VAUGHT

Louisville coach Rick Pitino came to Frankin, Ohio, to watch junior shooting guard Luke Kennard practice and spent a couple of hours there during the visit.

“It went well,” said Mark Kennard, the father of the 6-65shooting guard who is averaging about 40 points per game this season. “Coach Ptino is a good guy and one of the top coaches in the game. But all the coaches have been great.”

Ohio State’s Thad Matta, Kentucky’s John Calipari, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski are some of the other coaches that have watched Kennard play this year. He has cut his list of potential schools to Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Michigan and Florida. He visited Ohio State Jan. 12 and plans to visit Duke this season.

“He’s scoring a few baskets and as a team we are having a good year,” Mark Kennard said.

Fans are certainly enjoying what they are seeing as the small community has been turning out in force to watch Kennard and his teammates play.

“Sometimes they presell tickets and sometimes not,” Mark Kennard said. “At our last game they announced early it was sold out. My sister didn’t even get in. It’s neat to see so many fans at games. We go during the freshman game to make sure we get in. But it has been a lot of fun for the community and great for Luke and his teammates.”

That attention won’t lessen because of the schools recruiting Kennard, who still hopes to make a college choice in the spring.
He was at Kentucky when the Wildcats played Eastern Michigan and hopes to attend at least one more game this season.

“It will be a tough decision, but we still hope to get it done in May,” Mark Kennard said.

Teams have tried “trick defenses” to stop Luke Kennard, who can score in a variety of ways, this season.
“But he’s made a lot of nice passes and it helps that he has good teammates,” Mark Kennard said. “Our team is basically all juniors and they are all getting better. His best friend probably will get to play at the next level, too. They are best buddies on the team and the players all get along great.”

 

By RENE CORNETTE

A rivalry is defined as competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field and with only 70 miles separating Lexington from Louisville, that field is uncomfortably close. It gets even closer when you consider Louisville’s head coach, Rick Pitino, was once a well beloved coach at Kentucky.

It’s almost as if this rivalry were scripted and it’s only grown more heated since Kentucky and Louisville won back to back championships in 2012 and 2013. It’s no longer just a battle for the Bluegrass but a battle for the worldwide stage, fame and glory. Who’s the best fanbase? Who has the best team? Who has the best coach? Those are all questions both fan bases squabble over daily as if there can be winner. It’s the same old song and dance, comment and joke day after day. It’s a fight that’s never ending and since the hiring of Bobby Petrino at Louisville that fight has taken a nasty turn.

Twitter exploded recently with a picture of a child dressed as Bobby Petrino wearing a neck brace while throwing up L’s. His parents were taking him to the Louisville game dressed that way. It provoked quite the response and somehow a rivalry that had always been fun for me took a turn as anything but. I watched fans on both sides fire back and forth taking personal shots, making threats and became saddened by it all. Is this what it’s come to? Using our children as pawns in a rivalry and opening them up for hatred that they don’t deserve.

It’s madness and it has to stop. We have to become more responsible and mindful of our actions. It’s not okay to hide behind a computer and type personal attacks over what in the grand scheme of life doesn’t matter. It’s time to turn down the dial, take a step back and get some perspective.

A rivalry is supposed to be fun. You crack jokes at our team and we crack jokes at yours. It’s lighthearted banter and at the end of the day it’s all in good spirit. The problem lies in when you start seeing everything thru blue/red colored glasses. You allow yourself to only see the other team’s faults while becoming blind to your own in the process and becoming so full of hate you draw rage at the most nonsensical things. It’s pushing a rivalry so far that it loses it’s fun and crosses over into bullying. It’s personal attacks and threats made over a game. It’s writing someone off before you even know who they are because they don’t cheer for your team. It’s silly and it’s childish.

It’s okay to make jokes, share funny pictures and most of all laugh. It’s also okay to show respect to fellow fans who wear a different color from your team. This nonsense of being so into the rivalry that you let it dictate your friendships is ludicrous. If you’re nice to me, I’m going to be nice to you. I don’t care what team you cheer for. That’s how it should be.

A rivalry that makes fun of children, threatens harm on others and crosses over into bullying isn’t one that I want to be a part of. We’re all better than that. We always have been. It’s time to get our sanity back. It’s time to start worrying about our team more and the other one less. It’s about recognizing a rivalry has crossed a line and pulling back.

We have so much to be proud of as Kentucky fans. We have a great basketball coach and team. We also have an outstanding football coach and staff who are pulling in a top recruiting class. Coach Mitchell and our Lady CATS are doing big things as well. Let’s take a break from the vitriol and focus on the positive, myself included. I’ve gotten caught up in the rivalry. too. My hands aren’t clean but I want to do better. I need to do better. Let’s all get back to cheering for the blue and white. This is the year of the Wildcat. Don’t let it pass you by.

Alex Otte

Alex Otte

Vaught’s note: Alex Otte is a high school junior pursuing a career in sports journalism and has her own sports journalism/photography website all at athleticaspirations.com. “Mainly, I have opinion articles and exclusive interviews with NFL/NBA/NCAA athletes, among others,” Otte said. This is her take on Louisville’s hire of Bobby Petrino and the first of more columns to come from here.

By ALEX OTTE

It has been confirmed that Louisville fans got exactly what they wanted! Immediately after the resignation of Charlie Strong, other than questioning his loyalty, Louisville football fans were quick to say how badly they wanted Bobby Petrino back. Petrino comes with a lot of personal baggage, a history of immorality, and a questionable past (adultery, staying with a program for a season at a time, resigning or transferring without informing his players, etc.), and most recently the loyalty issue of leaving Western Kentucky University after only one season with them.

Last season, the University of Kentucky passed up the opportunity to hire Petrino because of his past. Although we recognize that people are capable of change, the University of Kentucky did not want his personal baggage, which he would likely be bringing with him, to reflect negatively on our program or to influence the young men with which he would be working.

The University of Louisville does not want Petrino because they have hope that he’s changed; they want him because they want to win football games. I understand that winning is a major goal of any athletic team, but there are much better coaches out there with a more respectable reputation. Unfortunately, the hiring of Bobby Petrino reiterates that, at least for the University of Louisville, winning is all that matters.

With an 83-30 record in his career, it’s tough to deny that Petrino knows the game of football and is more than capable of coaching a winning team, but is a winning record really all that matters in the grand scheme of things? Obtaining a first class organization seems like it isn’t even a factor to the University of Louisville and to their athletic program.

On the basketball side, Rick Pitino is a coach who is undeniably talented and is most certainly knowledgeable about his sport, having led both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville men’s basketball teams to national championships, but also has somewhat of a shady past, primarily focused on him being the subject of a sex scandal that took place in 2009 with a woman he met in a bar who was later accused of trying to extort him for cars, money, and college tuition for her children. This just reiterates what the Louisville athletic program invests in coaches for, and it’s not their heart or positive influence on athletes.

 

a-harrison

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