Sports

Notes: Kentucky and Louisville football, Cincinnati Bengals

Random notes:

Once Mark Stoops put Vince Marrow in charge of Kentucky football’s in-state recruiting efforts, the strategy has paid dividends. Early examples: Former Franklin County star Wan’Dale Robinson’s return to the Bluegrass from Nebraska and the emergence of Louisville product J.J. Weaver.

UK’s 2022 signee class, ranked 14th nationally by Rivals, included Kiyaunta Goodwin and Elijah Reed out of Louisville; Dane Key from Lexington; Grant Bingham from Paintsville and Jackson Smith from Danville.

Now the Cats are hoping South Warren defensive back Cristian Conyer will be the fifth in-state commit for 2023. Tennessee appears to be the prime competition. Conyer would join Ty Bryant (Frederick Douglass), Kaden Moorman (Franklin County), Malachi Wood (Madison Central) and Tommy Ziesmer (Boyle County).

Louisville football recruiting remains on fire. Monday, the Cardinals picked up a commitment from running back Rueben Owens of El Campo, Texas. Owens is ranked as the No. 2 running back prospect in the class of 2023 by 247Sports. Scott Satterfield now has four commits from 247Sports’ Top 100. That’s as many as the Cards have had in the previous 13 years combined.

Even if the SEC football expands to a nine-game league schedule, the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry should play on. UK AD Mitch Barnhart was non-committal recently about the future of the Governor’s Cup. The game means too much to the state to scrap.

Kentucky football’s Will Levis is one of the 45 quarterbacks participating in the Manning Passing Challenge at the Manning Passing Academy. Also among those on the list are Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young of Alabama, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Georgia’s Stetson Bennett, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson and Western Kentucky’s Jarret Doege.

Looking forward to Thursday night’s NBA Draft telecast, which always includes NBA analysts who haven’t watched much college basketball and college basketball analysts who haven’t watched much NBA.

Now that the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals have wrapped up their summer OTAs and mini-camps, the start of training camp is a month away. The Bengals have scheduled a “Back Together Saturday” for July 30 at Paul Brown Stadium.

Remember when Santa Anita’s high number of equine fatalities — 49 for 2018-19 — rocked horse racing? Reforms were put in place. Now the track reports that during its six-month winter-spring session for 2021-22, which ended June 19, there were just three racing fatalities from 4,800 starters. The track says it was its safest winter-spring meet on record.

If the day ends in “y” it’s probably a day in which UK’s remarkable Abby Steiner wins another national track and field award. After winning the women’s track athlete of the year award, Steiner is now a semifinalist for the Bowerman, college track’s highest individual honor. Finalists will be announced June 27.

Eastern Kentucky University Athletics has announced its Hall of Fame class for 2022. It includes: Alex Jones (women’s basketball, 2009-13), Larry Marmie (football, 1962-66 & 1972-76), Chanze Patterson (softball, 2005-08), Jim Tanara (football, 1979-05) and Neil Sellers (baseball, 2001-04). Enshrinement is scheduled for Oct. 1 at Alumni Coliseum with a lunch starting at noon. Tickets can be purchased online at EKUSports.com/2021HOF or by calling the ticket office at 844-3-GOBIGE.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit on the future of college football: “It wouldn’t shock me to see the Power Five conferences break away from the NCAA at some point and create their own governing body. If that happens, I think you’ll see them negotiate with the players to collectively agree on a set of rules both sides are willing to live with and that should include players getting a share of future broadcast rights deals. They deserve that.”

Surely North Carolina is now the favorite for college basketball’s preseason No. 1 after last season’s runner-ups picked up transfer Pete Nance from Northwestern. The 6-foot-10 Nance averaged 14.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists last season. He joins a roster that includes four returning starters for the Heels.

I never heard anyone say an unkind word about Mike Pratt, the former UK basketball star and broadcaster who died last week at the age of 73. I’ll miss seeing Mike at UK basketball road games, always kind, always smiling, a friend to everyone he met.

John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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