UK has chance to honor Rice the correct way

| August 3, 2011

What a great chance the University of Kentucky Athletics Department has to right a terrible wrong when Russell Rice is among six people who will be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame the weekend of Sept. 23-24 when the Wildcats play Florida in football.

Confession: Russell is a longtime friend of mine.

When he retired as sports information director after 20 years, the university was left with no one who knew the first thing about the athletic history of UK. In all, he was associated with UK sports for half a century as a student, Lexington Leader sports editor and columnist for The Cats’ Pause. Russell, the pride of Van Lear in Martin County in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, was a Marine during World War II.

The University of Tennessee was the gold standard of keeping not one, but four or five old-timers around who loved UT and had an encyclopedic knowledge of Volunteer athletics.

UK just shoved them all out the door.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had calls from family members who were crying when a loved one had died and they had tried to get a photo or information about their relatives who had died. The one that made me angriest came when Jim Howe died. He was a halfback who played for Bear Bryant. Howe’s son told me that he was turned off by this comment from a UK staffer: “Well, we don’t know anything or have anything about him.”

The difference

Here’s the difference in UK and Tennessee when it comes to public relations. I went to Cawood Ledford’s funeral in Harlan. Two longtime members of UT’s public relations staff were there. No one from UK bothered to attend.

UK should make a place for Russell in its Sports Information office. He would be invaluable. Let him set his own hours.

He wrote several informative books on UK sports. Try a bookstore before they all go out of business. Russell knew all of the UK athletic giants from Adolph Rupp, Bear Bryant, Bernie Shively and on down.

Bill Ransdell, the last UK QB to beat Tennessee (17-12 in Knoxville in 1984) will join Rice in the induction ceremonies.

Others to be inducted: Jeff Abott (baseball), Pam Browning (basketball) Ilkka Jantti (soccer) and Cedric Kauffmann (tennis).

Brohm, Unitas

Football lovers give far too much credit to coaches on all levels – especially the National Football League variety. And add general managers and club owners to that list.

Consider what has happened to Brian Brohm, the bright young quarterback who spurred Trinity High and the University of Louisville.

He led Trinity to even greater heights and did the same for U of L. He never has been given a chance by multiple NFL coaches and general managers.

I wish all of the NFL geniuses could read about a young QB from U of L who couldn’t make a team in his home state of Pennsylvania. He was playing semi-pro ball on ratty fields around Pittsburgh when the Baltimore Colts were desperate for a QB. So the Colts gave Johnny Unitas a chance. The rest is history.

Unitas led the Colts to the top of the pro football world. There never has been a tougher or smarter or better or more efficient NFL quarterback. And it was all because the Colts were desperate for a leader who could pass the football.

Brohm’s many friends and fans in Louisville just wish he could get the same chance. I wonder if Mike Brown, owner of the Cincinnati Bengals and the son of legendary Paul Brown, has ever seen Brohm play.

Word is going around that the Bengals need a QB.

Brohm has been as unlucky as Rick Norton and Tim Couch, two star UK quarterbacks who took terrible beatings because they were drafted by terribly weak teams. Norton, a Flaget product, and Couch, from Leslie County, never had a chance.

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Category: Earl Cox on Sports

About the Author (Author Profile)

Earl Cox, Sports Columnist

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 (1)

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  1. Jeff says:

    Earl, I read your article each week and, as a result, have a couple things I would like to get off my chest.

    Every week you spew vitriol towards the UK athletic department in some capacity. If you aren’t taking umbrage with the university’s athletic budget, then its a lack of commitment to academics, public relations or some other issue. Case in point, your article this week. I’m not a fan of Barnhart, but to portray this current sports information office as unfriendly by linking them to an epidose at Cawood Ledford’s funeral nearly 10 years ago is unfair and ludicrous.

    Now I understand UK’s athletic department has a number of faults – to me why they choose to not embrace the Bear Bryant years or the ’51 national championship team (especially this year) fails to make any sense. At any rate, week after week you take jabs at the administration. Did they revoke your credential? Why such an axe to grind?

    Also, to answer your question, Mike Brown has seen Brohm play. On 8/11/08 Brian saw his first NFL action in a preseason tilt against Cincinnati and promptly threw a pick on what I believe was his first pass. He finished the game 8-17, 70 yds, 0TD, 1INT. Brohm also threw one pass for Buffalo in a preseason game against Cincinnati, so I’m sure Brown is aware of Brohm (though I can’t speak for the Bengals’ other scout). At any rate, the Bengals have Brad Gradkowski, Andy Dalton, and Jordan Palmer. Luckily for Brohm, the Bengals have no need for him.

    One final item, a few weeks ago you hypothesized that since Rose will not be in the Hall of Fame due to gambling, Ty Cobb shouldn’t either becasue he was a racist. I will be the first to admit Cobb was a despicable individual on a number of levels. However, to hypothesize he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame because of his bigoted views would preclude dozens of other players enshrined in Cooperstown. Perhaps the argument of comparing Cobb with Rose could be strengthened by mentioning that Cobb killed a man and was also linked to gamblers. It was only Cobb’s threat to K.M. Landis of bringing baseball to its knees by exposing the scope of gambling pardoned him.

    Ah, I feel much better. Thanks, Earl. Have a wonderful weekend.