Since you obviously love college basketball, you’re probably aware of some of the goings-on involving a few of the more storied programs in the game: Kansas lost their #1 ranking a couple of weekends ago and some players are said to be unsure of their roles on the team; North Carolina has dropped three straight and just barely managed to stay in the latest Top 25; Connecticut looks bewildered and is out of the rankings; despite having a brilliant coach, this is one of the worst UCLA teams in our lifetime; and just last night, Texas lost at Kansas State, and, after enjoying it for only two polls, will likely drop from the first #1-ranking they’ve ever had.
Meanwhile, in Lexington, John Calipari is defecating bars of gold. OK, I know — we can’t prove that. But would you be surprised? In the last several days, the University of Kentucky basketball team (and anything having to do with it) has enjoyed a tidal wave of positive energy of which there is no rival in recent memory. Let us relive the recent days of the Kentucky program, shall we?
First — and there’s only one place to start this list — there was the Hoops For Haiti telethon that Calipari came up with and threw together in a matter of just a few days. This past Sunday, on local Lexington television station WKYT (who donated their own studio time, eschewing commercials), Calipari and some personalities from the station emceed while members of the Kentucky squad sat behind them and took telephone pledges. Even after the players were relieved of their posts, the phones kept ringing and the pledges kept coming in, largely because part of the deal here was that every pledge would be matched, or doubled, by a group called Cal’s Pals For Haiti. Several names from the world of college hoops called in and donated, including Dick Vitale, Texas head coach Rick Barnes (the irony!), Jim Boeheim (who was reportedly pretty funny), and Cincinnati Bengals coach (and NFL Coach of the Year) Marvin Lewis. Ashley Judd, a UK alum — like you didn’t know that — made a taped appearance, but is responsible for a few things in the accompanying auction. In a textbook display of class, ex-UK coach Tubby Smith called in to the show and made a live donation. We at RTC don’t really get mushy over stuff, but this feat is impressive, to say the least. Kentucky is the 44th-wealthiest state in the country, and though it has all classes represented among its populace, it’s safe to say that in several cases people who called in and donated money could not afford to, but still did. With the matching funds, so far, the venture has raised over a million dollars.