This doesn't seem very journalistic or anything, but Kentucky gridiron coach Guy Morriss is likeable just because.
Earlier this week, the university said that Morriss would continue to coach the football Wildcats in the 2002 campaign. A wise decision by Director of Athletics Larry Ivy and President Lee Todd.
But a decision not made just because.
Because everyone knows universities - especially those endeavoring to be Top 20 universities - never do things just because. (Right?) No, be quite sure that this decision was made after consulting a cornucopia of charts, reports, gate receipts, grades, ratings, interviews, and independent reviews.
But since such info isn't readily available and since you wouldn't have time to lay hands on it even if it were, here's the Cliff's Notes version of why Kentucky keeps the coach.
Because he works hard. He took over a corrupted, crippled, decaying program and dug in, injecting discipline and dedication from day one forward never once making excuses or complaining though knowing full well that the 2001 season was just as likely to be his last as it was his first at the UK helm.
Because his injury-cursed team was competitive. True, UK only won one SEC game. But the Cats were only out of one conference game too (the 42-6 debacle at South Carolina on October 6) - when was the last time UK could claim that? Further (painfully or not), Kentucky was only a field goal shy of beating Mississippi State (14-17), a last-second defensive stop shy of beating LSU (25-29), and a frivolous interference flag or fumble shy of beating Tennessee (35-38). LSU and UT contest the SEC conference title this Saturday, and one of them will wind up in a BCS bowl (barf).
Because of the way he handled the dual-quarterback system. Morriss showed he was the man; he had to be. He was firm and firmly in control, and so things flowed fairly well. For the most part, Morriss knew when to hold 'em, knew when to fold 'em - thus permitting Boyd to learn and Lorenzen to blossom.
Because the fans like him and the players love him, with the latter being more indicative of success, and with the understanding that that kind of love and respect are synonymous. The team spoke out in favor of Morriss throughout the season. And after all the team chose Morriss as its coach from the beginning and would no doubt choose to keep him - ask anyone who plays for him. That's called cohesion. Surprising how infrequent a team wants to, above all, win on behalf of its head coach - especially a coach the majority of it wasn't recruited to play for. If you don't believe that, ask anyone who played under UK's previous coach.
Because he is honest, and honesty is catchy. Refreshing to hear a UK football coach, in post-game press conferences, answer, "I don't know" or "I messed up" and know that deep down he doesn't think otherwise. Morriss accepted all of the fault while none of the credit. That's courteous, that's class. (Also refreshing.) As is how he arrived at the post-game conferences in a coat and tie, even though everyone knew he often wasn't in the mood for either.
Because he didn't change and won't. Becoming a head coach will often alter a fellah ego-wise. And most head coaches undergo some drastic transformation when their win-loss record becomes heavily weighted on either side. But Morriss is a professional.
Because he's a football man to the core. And he has surrounded himself with a football-to-the-core staff. And he listens to them. What a concept.
Because he cares about his players as persons. Their academics, their off-field behavior, their post-UK success is not just lip service to Morriss. If so, the players would see right through him, and hence would not respect him as they do.
And finally the university decided to keep coach Morriss because they felt bad for him - since he had to endure all that He's Our Guy, What A Guy, the New Guy, the Right Guy For The Job, a Stand Up Guy, the Football Guy, a Good Guy (and even the Fall Guy) silliness batted about the media and the sports marketing office.
Maybe he should go with Aloysius or Ebenezer in 2002 and see what they could do with that.
A Sad Goodbye
Julius Berry, known for his work in the African American community, died unexpectedly Sunday, December 2nd at St. Joseph Hospital. Berry worked in local government as an aide to several Lexington mayors, focusing on racial issues including school integration and equal opportunity programs. Berry, father to a 9 year-old daughter, was 62.
Fanning the Flame
The winter Olympics are upon us, along with the traditions that deliver them. Since this year's games are on home soil, the torch - the most celebrated pre-Olympic display of patriotism - is burning through the Bluegrass on December 17th. Having just returned from Athens, Greece, the torch arrived in Atlanta on December 4th to kick off its 13,500 mile cross-country journey to Salt Lake City. Twelve of the miles on the torch route are in Fayette County. Lexington residents can join in the festivities at 11:15 am at Cardinal Valley Elementary to cheer on their local torch-bearers.
Singin' and Strummin'
If Lexington is the breeding metropolis for horse farms and basketball junkies, Nashville produces the goods when it comes to lasting music, from heart-tuggin' folk ballads to country blues-swinging melodies. No matter what kind of music you perform or enjoy, Nashville has something for everyone, and now the Music City is bringing some of that good stuff to Lexington. The Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation presents Songwriter Café on Wednesday, Dec.12 at ArtsPlace. Be enlightened, entertained and enchanted by guests from the Grammy Foundation who will perform and provide insight into the art of writing and the business of publishing in the music industry. Pre-register by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a check ($15 for Academy members and students, $20 for non-members) to The Recording Academy, 1904 Wedgewood Ave, Nashville, TN 37212. For more info call 615-327-8030 or visit www.grammy.com.
Not forgettting the past
The 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor may have significant meaning this year in light of the recent World Trade Center attacks. On Dec. 7 at the Central Library Theatre, Constance Alexander will present a reading of "Kilroy Was Here," her award-winning manuscript that details personal stories and interviews about World War II from the viewpoint of children who grew up in that war-torn era. "Kilroy" focuses on the stories of one family and includes letters, recipes and advertisements. Alexander began researching the project in recognition of the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994. Her book has won national recognition, been performed at New York's Fireside Theatre and was published in the Doubleday anthology, From Page to Stage. It was most recently produced in Kentucky by the Pleiades Theatre in Louisville. "'Kilroy' has an impact on all ages," said Alexander. "The piece often sparks memories that are long forgotten. It's a good way for young people to learn about history, and a good way for those who lived through it to recall the past." The reading of "Kilroy Was Here" is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Lexington Public Library. For further info, contact Ruthie Maslin at 231-5594. -Jessica Gipson
For Art's sake
The University of Kentucky's Art Department will be holding its "10th Annual Open Studio Event" on December 7th from 6 to 10 p.m. in The Reynolds Building, located at 671 S. Broadway. The price of admission is $3 and raffle tickets for original artworks by UK art professors and prizes from local businesses will be $5 each. This is a great opportunity to buy original art and to visit the Reynolds Building, an aging tobacco warehouse that stands as a monument to the University of Kentucky's commitment to art. -JG
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