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July 25, 2006

Your Weekly Reeder: It’s almost time to rack ’em up once again

Those of you who think the Governor’s Cup is what Ernie Fletcher wears to protect himself from low blows can move on to the next item, because you obviously are effete intellectual snobs who think it’s obscene to give any college football coach a $25 million contract, as the University of Louisville has done with Bobby Petrino.This is the same university, of course, whose athletics department was in such dire financial straits a few years ago that the university was forced to impose a “temporary” surcharge on student tuition. The surcharge remains in place, even though the athletic department’s financial status has obviously improved considerably.But I digress.The Governor’s Cup is the trophy that goes to the winner of the game between the Cardinals and the University of Kentucky, which had a semi-respectable football program until it was royally screwed up by a bush-league coach (Hal Mumme) and his cheating recruiter (Claude Bassett).That happened a long time ago, back in the days when people around here still believed that Tim Couch and Chris Redman were shoo-ins to make outstanding NFL quarterbacks. Indeed, UK has had enough time to get back on track. Unfortunately, however, athletics director Mitch Barnhart has proven to be about as adept at fixing a football program as Fletcher has been in getting bridges painted.After running off a perfectly good coach in Guy Morriss, Barnhart botched the coaching search so badly that, at the end, his only option was Rich Brooks, an old buddy from Oregon who had retired pretty much because nobody wanted him.In three years at UK, Brooks has produced a 9-25 record in all games and 4-20 in the Southeastern Conference. Even by UK’s standards, which are not what you would call high, this is horrible. Against U of L, Brooks is 0-3. The Governor’s Cup has resided in Louisville for so long that the Metro Council is looking for a way to tax it.When UK and U of L take the field on Sunday evening, Sept. 3, in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Petrino will be expected to show an ESPN audience why he’s worth more money than the coaches at Tennessee, Oklahoma and other traditional football hotbeds.But even if UK loses again, bowl fever still will burn in Lexington. That’s because Barnhart has rigged the schedule to give the Cats a legitimate shot to win six games and receive a bid to one of the record 31 postseason bowl games.Besides U of L, UK’s non-conference schedule includes Texas State, Central Michigan and Louisiana-Monroe. All of the games are in Lexington, and they’re actually charging real money to see them.When you play these kinds of teams, you are lowering your standards, not rebuilding your program. It’s the same mentality that has led Barnhart to tick off just about everybody, including many of his own fans, by moving next year’s U of L from the opener to the third game in the season.What he’s hoping to do is turn down the hype that has accompanied the series since its beginning. Is this incredible or what? The reason for the series was to get more hype for football in a traditional basketball state. It has succeeded to the point that the commonwealth now produces far more Division I prospects in football than basketball.Obviously, and sadly, Barnhart wants to deflect attention from his inability to fix UK football at the same time Tom Jurich is taking U of L to previously unimagined heights.As usual, the U of L-UK hype will begin with a Governor’s Cup cocktail party and auction at 6 p.m. on Aug. 1 at the Cardinal Club in Simpsonville. For $25 per couple, fans will get hors’ oeuvres, drinks and the chance to schmooze with a plethora of former jocks.The next day, the Kroger’s Governor’s Cup kickoff lunch, press conference and golf tournament will be held at the University Club in Lexington, beginning at 11:45 a.m. The special honorees will be former stars, Art Still of UK and Ken Kortas of U of L.Anybody wishing to participate should contact Randy Whitt of Right Way Productions at 636-3207, ext. 44.In case you were wondering, Whitt says the Governor’s Cup preseason events will be held at the same time next year, even though the game date is being moved.“Every year these events just get bigger,” Whitt said. “This series and our events seem to have caught on with fans in Louisville and all around the state.”     Contact the writer at billyr@leoweekly.com