Upcoming Appointments Crucial To UK Sports
During the next six months, two very vital appointments will have lasting effects on collegiate sports in the deep South and the University of Kentucky in particular.
By the end of this coining winter UK President Otis Singletary's era will be history and about the same time a new leader will be installed as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference.
Just what affect these two changes will have on the University of Kentucky sports scene is subjective at best. SEC's commissioner Dr. Boyd McWhorter's successor most likely will not alter the UK sports scene near as much as the UK presidency, but we'll deal with that situation later in this column.
Finding a successor to Singletary will be the most important appointment concerning the university, both academically and athletically, in the past twenty years.
Time marches on and changing of the guards is inevitable. A year ago Joe B. Hall called it quits and in stepped Eddie Sutton. If the university can achieve as smooth a transistion in presidents as it did from Hall to Sutton, a momumental accomplishment will be in the works.
Singletary announced earlier this year his plans to retire from the presidency next spring and become a professor on the Lex ington campus. He will be 65 years old at the time.
While the UK president has attracted his share of criticism during almost two decades as head of the state's flagship university, no one can deny that he truly captained his own ship. He listened to everyone but knelt to no one.
Such a strong, independent stand has created more than one enemy for Singletary but the man has withstood the test of time. Never, not for one moment, has anyone questioned who was and is the president of the University of Kentucky. That, in itself, is the ultimate tribute to him.
To say Singletary has been perfect would be a bit naive.
Perhaps his fierce conviction of not win ing and dining state legislators to attract huge state tax dollars was not a wise decision. Singletary's academic and philosophical up bringing-emphasized a more sophisticated approach in dealing with lawmakers who make such fiscal decisions. Unfortunately Kentucky politicis dictate other maneuvering:
He has also experienced more than one man's share of problems. There have been numerous crises ranging from a troubled tobacco research program to losing a multi million dollar coal research project to UK's biggest rival, the University of Louisivlle
In sports, there have been the good times and bad. During his tenure, Singletary has been boss to three different basketball coaches and four football coaches.
.Singletary had barely learned his way around the Lexington campus before bumping into rookie head football coach John Ray who has just arrived on campus a few months before Singletary. Ray, the ex-Notre Dame assistant who was known as a defensive
whiz, was hired to turn around the sagging football fortunes after Charlie Bradshaw called it quits when the UK administration offered him only a one-year extension on his contract at the end of the 1968 season.
The apparent new committment in whisking a big-time Notre Dame employee sat well with the new prez, because it was common knowledge that Singletary liked his football just like fine wine, aged with winning tradition in a highly competitive spirit and highly envied by others.
It appeared to be the makings of a long and successful marriage. Singletary was an extremely popular man around the Commonwealth (to sports fans) because he represented the opposite of his full-time predecessor.
Singletary took over the job from acting president Dr. A. D. Kirwan but Kirwan was far from the wolf in this case. Dr. Kirwan agreed to the role of acting president for a short period of time until a new one could be found.
That line of succession came when Dr. John W. Oswald resigned at UK to accept the presidency at Perm State University. During the turbulant Oswald years, sports at UK were more often than not swept under the rug.
Long-time observers claimed Oswald had a tremendous disdain for UK's avid sports boosters because they allegedly always ig nored academics. If Kentucky did indeed fall behind other SEC sports programs, you could point to the 1960s as a major period of decay in Lexington.
Ironically. Oswald moved to one of, it not the hottest, football factories in the country and the marriage at University Park was very successful.
The arrival of Singletary alone failed to bring immediate success. But he did give his blessing to an all-out effort to upgrade UK's football facilities and although John Ray wasn't around to reap the dividents, a young and brash Fran Curci was.
Curci's arrival was the second half of a solid 1-2 punch involving UK's big two sportsbasketball and football in the early seventies.
In 1972, the legendary Adolph Rupp was forced into retirement and replaced by his long-time assistant Joe B. Hall. It was pro bably the most controversial stand Singletary has made on the UK sports scene during his UK era.
Although Rupp had suffered numerous illnesses toward the end of his career, the nation's winningest coach wanted no part of retirement. The state has a mandatory retire ment age of 70. Singletary wanted the Baron to exit with grace and a lot of fanfare but anytime the subject was brought up, Rupp let it be known in no uncertain terms he would not voluntarily retire. . Singletary could have petitioned the Board of Trustees for an exception to the retirement rule, but the UK president was quoted often as saying it would set a terrible precedent with hundreds of other employees on cam pus who would demand equal treatment
Fans around the state became divided and highly emotional. Old-timers fumed about
kicking Rupp out after all he had accomplished for the University. Others said the game had passed Rupp by and that Hall had paid his dues and deserved the opportunity to carry the torch.
Singletary won out in his first major confrontation, but it was a decision which has come back to haunt him in more ways than one. Even today, Singletary is known as much for being the man to say "no" to Rupp as any of the marvelous projects the president has accomplished.
But the achievements have far outnumbered the negatives.
In sports. Singletary has watched over a program which has consistently prided itself in avoiding red ink without having to accept state tax dollars to keep the program in operation.
Expansion on the campus has been widespread. Commonwealth Stadium was built during his tenure and although Rupp Arena is a community facility, its presence was made possible by UK's committment to play its home games there.
One of the nation's finest indoor tennis facilities has just been completed and an Olympic-size swimming facility (at some $6 million) should be completed sometime in the near future. A $4 million football training project is expected to be under construction by late summer.
And that's not to mention a surplus of some S14 million or so in reserves for the athletics department. Singletary has been an outspoken leader with the College Football Association and college presidents' attempt to strengthen academic standards for student-athletes.
On the field, Kentucky has enjoyed three bowl trips in the last eleven years, three Final Four trips in the past eleven years, a national championship and a NIT title.
On the darker side, Kentucky went on NCAA probation back in 1976 in both basketball and football and the basketball program is in the midst of an investigation at this time.
Singletary, by no means, has been all athletics. The University has been gaining rapidly in its attempt to climb the academic ladder of success in comparsion with other highly recognized universities. Its growth in research has been among the nation's elite.
More importantly, annual giving to the university has been breaking records year after year. But now, it's time to look to the future. Who will become the next president of the University of Kentucky? At this point, no one really knows. A search committee, headed by one of the state's most respected civic and educational leaders in Robert McCowan of Ashland Oil, has been named by Singletary to make a nomination to the UK Board of Trustees which will have the final authority.
Rumors are rampant. Some say the new president should be an academic person. Some say the president should be a native Kentuckian or a graduate of UK. Some say the new prez should be a highly skilled corporate businessman. You could go on and
There has been talk of Governor Martha Layne Collins positioning herself for a run at the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Wendell Ford in a few years by becoming president at UK. raising some much-needed dollars for the University and then ride the wave of popularity all the way to Washington. (Ford, according to insiders has already decided to retire in six years if he is re-elected this fall where he has only token opposition).
Those close to the search committee believe it might be as late as January or February before a new president is selected. In future issues, we'll take a deeper look as other names surface as to what impact the new president will have on UK sports.
The UK presidency isn't the only vacancy around these days. Dr. H. Boyd McW'horter announced his retirement as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, effective this summer.
McWhorter, who has been ill for some time, has performed his chores well. He has been a man of tremendous integrity, a man of his word and most of all, fair to everyone.
Nothing more could be asked for. In his farewell remarks recently, McWhorter assured reporters that he wanted no more power than was affored him during his tenure because, he said, "this conference truly is run by the institutions' presidents and that's the way it should be."
A search committee is expected to submit a nominee to the league's ten presidents sometime during the next two months. Applications are being accepted through a July 1 deadline.
Many names are being tossed around, but . two have been mentioned more often than others and a third should be added to the list.
Those mentioned include Vanderbilt athletics director Roy Kramer, Vanderbilt assistant athletics director and basketball coach CM. Newton, Ole Miss athletics director Warner Alford and Florida State athletics director Hootie Ingram, a former SEC assistant commissioner.
All those above certainly would qualify as worthy candidates for the position but the individual who would give the SEC much-needed instant credibility would be a fellow by the name of David E. Cawood.
Cawood has enjoyed a very successful sports administrative career, stepping carefully up the ladder via Morehead, Arkansas and has dutifully moved up the NCAA ladder in Shawnee Mission to his current position as top assistant to executive director Walter Byers.
While McWhorter has performed his duties (as oudined by the ten presidents) well, there is little question that the SEC has been the laughing stock of the nation along with the Pac-10 in recent years.
The league says it wants to make athletes "student-athletes," but look at the graduation rate. The league says it wants to clean up its cheating image, but look at the court docket in Shawnee Mission! Who's fooling
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