Earl Cox: The Lowdown On UK’s Media Problems

| September 8, 2011

The Voice-Tribune's Sports Columnist

When I started at UK journalism classes were held in an old World War II frame building near Alumni Gym. Snow covered the ground one day when my classmates and I looked out and saw one of our classmates slip and fall. Chuck Tilly couldn’t get up so several of us rushed out and picked him up on what is now the Avenue of Champions.

Chuck was a Marine who had lost a leg to a Japanese artillery shell on Okinawa that exploded near his bunker. In addition to his leg, Chuck suffered a withered arm. He had been a rising baseball star before World War II, but his injuries ended his dream of making the Major Leagues.

Chuck was sports editor of The Kentucky Kernel, UK’s student newspaper that has been in the news recently. He called me aside one morning and asked me to cover UK basketball for The Kernel. I was working full time at the old Lexington Herald and doing three or four other jobs, but I couldn’t say no to Chuck.

Hoops scandals
This was when the basketball scandals were breaking out all over the nation. When UK players were involved, Chuck assigned me to interview coach Adolph Rupp and director of athletics Bernie Shively.

That was one story that I didn’t look forward to writing, but I got an interview with them. They were candid and treated me like a professional, answering all of my questions.

Coach Rupp even invited me to any of his practices.

“There’s a steel fence at the entrance of the (Memorial) Coliseum floor, but if it’s locked, you just rattle it and you tell the manager who comes that I said to let you in.” From that day on, I had carte blanche at UK practices.

Understand, I was just a student. But Rupp saw to it that I was seated as near the Coliseum midcourt as were The C-J and The Herald writers.

Years later, when Western Kentucky administered perhaps Rupp’s most disheartening loss and knocked the Wildcats out of the NCAA East Regional Tournament at the University of Georgia, I told him before the game that I was writing the game story and would appreciate being admitted to the dressing room as soon as the game was over. I went in with the players and Rupp allowed me to interview him and two or three of the players before he said a word to the team. I always appreciated that.

Understand, now, by then I was writing for The Courier-Journal. But there were other times when I was writing for The Kernel that Rupp was just as accommodating when he didn’t have to be.

Different story
Now, many years later, different leaders are entrenched at UK. We have a tooth doctor for a president. We have a director of athletics who tells the president when to jump.

The present head basketball coach, it appears, is in command of both the president and the director of athletics.

Those three allowed the university to be the laughing stock of the entire nation last week when a flunky of the A.D. and head coach informed a Kernel writer that he would not be invited (that’s right, INVITED) to press conferences and not be allowed to interview basketball players. Why? Because a Kernel writer called two students to ask them if they were walk-ons for the basketball team.

UK students were not allowed to interview other students (who are athletes) without permission from the UK media relations department.

Heavens! I sat next to Paul Bryant’s football players and Adolph Rupp’s basketball players in several of my classes and we talked all the time.

It didn’t hurt the football or basketball teams a bit. You can look it up. Rupp won FOUR national championships and the Bear won real bowl games (Sugar and Cotton) and even a Southeastern Conference and national championship.

UK last year was guilty of telling The Herald-Leader that it could cover UK, but one certain writer would not be admitted. That’s denying the writer of his First Amendment rights!

APSE was born
Two other sports editors and I formed the Associated Press Sports Editors and I was the second president of the organization. APSE was formed to expose and oppose just such reprehensible things as UK was guilty of last week.

Other journalism organizations joined in by assailing UK.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

You know I think?

I think the University of Kentucky needs to be taken behind a tree and given a good switching.

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Category: Earl Cox on Sports

About the Author (Author Profile)

Earl Cox, Sports Columnist
502.897.8910

Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.

Comments (2)

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  1. Howard Peyton says:

    Good artical Earl. I read your articles every week and really enjoy them. I miss all the times we had in the CJ composing room.

  2. J. Whitt says:

    I totally agree with Mr. Cox. I attended both undergraduate and medical school at UK. The best course that I took in either was an etymology course taught by Dr. Neil Plummer in the journalism department.