If John Calipari has done one thing during his time as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, it has been to honor the past and great history of Kentucky. Recently, it was announced that Calipari was considering a meeting against Texas El-Paso (formerly Texas Western) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 National Championship game in which Kentucky lost 72-65.
The meeting was the first time in which an all white starting lineup faced an all black starting lineup for the national title. The game was the basis of the movie “Glory Road” and has been dissected to death across several platforms. On another note, this game has been the rallying call for all the “Adolph Rupp was racist” zealots out there and restaging this game will probably bring on additional drama, at least from the twitter-verse.
So should Kentucky rethink this game? Billy Reed weighs in with his opinion.
My first reaction to the possible 50th anniversary game was to wonder why UK would agree to play a game in which the university would take yet another public-relations beating in the national media. As the years have gone on, you see, revisionist historians have turned Rupp into as vile a racist as the notorious Birmingham police chief “Bull Conner.
Never mind that the facts don’t support that view of Rupp, who won four NCAA titles and 876 games from 1930 through ’72. Sadly, the revisionist historians refuse to let the facts get in the way of neat story line.
At the time of the game, believe it or not, race was not an issue – at least in the national media. In his account of the 1966 championship game, Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford never mentions the black-white angle. Nor did the majority of the writers and broadcasters who were at courtside.
But somewhere over the next couple of decades, the story took on a life of its own. Rupp became depicted as a symbol of racist Old South and Don Haskins, his coaching opponent in that championship game, was turned into a champion of civil rights. As anybody knows who read Jack Olsen’s landmark 1968 SI series about the black athlete, Haskins’ players were treated as shabbily at home as they were anywhere on the road.
Nevertheless, a 50th anniversary of the game surely will drag out all the old stereotypes and misconceptions. The modern media again will turn a deaf ear to any defense of Rupp. So if UK agrees to play the game, it also needs to fund a high-powered public-relations campaign to save its image – and Rupp’s reputation – from another pounding.
About a week ago, John Calipari made some comments that Kentucky fans should inevitable prepare for his leaving Kentucky. I don’t want to think about it, but I know that Cal will eventually call it quits. You can’t stay king at the most stressful college job in America forever.
And I think that this year has been very stressful for Calipari. Not in a 2012-13 kind of stress, but just a sense of frustration that this season has not gone as planned. And John Calipari takes to his own website once again, to remind us all that his team’s growth is a process, so enjoy it.
Having said that, don’t expect things to change overnight. This is going to be a yearlong process. Yes, I want to win every game I coach, but our ultimate goal is to be in that conversation at the end of the year. I know we have to be more organized, our mission has to be clearer to the players, and I have to be less emotional during the game because we’ve got a bunch of young kids. I can’t put winning before their growth.
This is about getting these players to think a different way, to think about serving each other. My job is to serve them. Their job is to serve each other. That’s what Players First is about. It isn’t player first. It isn’t team second. What they accomplish as a group supersedes everything. As our team succeeds, individuals benefit. Just look what that approach did for Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That’s what I’m trying to get these guys to understand, but the fact of the matter is not everyone is on the same timetable.
I just have to stay patient and continue loving them as I challenge them and raise the bar — no easy task when you’re dealing with 18-year-olds. These are good kids. They want to learn. We are going to be fine. Just remember it’s a process. Enjoy the ride, Big Blue Nation, because we need you.
A few weeks ago, the Belmont Bruins shocked the world by upsetting North Carolina. The Bruins have lost three of four lately and were blown out by 4-5 Denver 90-62 last night. So since this is not longer a “big game”, expect to hear plenty of talk on Sunday about UK’s attendance. ESPN has hopped on that subject recently.
Eamonn Brennon revisits John Clay’s article on the attendance and more specifically, the comments on Clay’s facebook page that I wrote about earlier. And it seems that Brennon came to kind of the same conclusion I did. Brennon does not really buy into the notion that UK fans are staying away because they are disconnected to the team.
Is this the hidden dynamic in Kentucky’s attendance blips? It must be difficult to grow attached to a new team every season, and then turn that roster over entirely the following fall; a good number of people wrote some version of this theory to Clay in their responses. Is that the risk of Calipari’s high-stakes talent experiment: That fans grow more distant and clinical, too?
I doubt it. If anything, the most likely culprits are the economic factors/ticket prices, TV availability and Kentucky’s soft home nonconference schedule, if not necessarily in that order. The simplest explanations are usually the best, right? What am I missing?