Daily News blog moving

19 08 2011

As many of you know by now, I’ll be leaving the Daily News and will no longer be the Western Kentucky beat writer.

Chad Bishop, the former Daily News prep editor, will be taking the beat over as I move on to a new phase of my career.

Chad will be running a daily sports blog, similar to what I’ve done here. He’ll also be available on Twitter.

Follow Chad on Twitter at: @MrChadBishop

To get to Chad’s WKU blog, click HERE

Again, I’d like to thank everyone that’s been a part of this blog and anyone that’s ever read it. It’s been far more successful than I ever imagined it would be.

Thanks so much again, and we’ll see you in the Big Ten.

Sincerely,

Nick Baumgardner





Ex-WKU star Jim McDaniels calls for end to lockout, more NBA player protection

18 08 2011

Former Western Kentucky basketball star Jim McDaniels is unhappy with the current NBA lockout situation, and says that players need to be more protected.

McDaniels – through his attorney, Mike Breen – recently sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern and to NBA Players Association Excecutive Director Billy Hunter calling for an end to the lockout, and a resumption of labor discussions.

“I’ve been watching the lockout and the tactics used by the NBA, and I’m very concerned,” McDaniels said in a statement.”When I played in the league in the 1970s players were frequently abused and taken advantage of. We have to be careful to prevent that from happening again. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to others.”

More on the letter, per a release from Breen and McDaniels:

In the letter Mr. McDaniels tells how he had a six year guaranteed contract with the Seattle Sonics, but was fired by coach Bill Russell without reason. He also notes that young players are vulnerable to manipulation and abuse, and that many players had their careers ended prematurely by poor management.

“The hard cap proposal could leave many players in the same place I was when I played in the league,” McDaniels said. “Lots of players stand to lose out. We have to make sure that players are protected. The owners and the league need to end the lockout, and come to the table with realistic proposals.”





Tickets still available for Kentucky-Western Kentucky season opener in Nashville

17 08 2011

Western Kentucky senior associate athletic director Todd Stewart told the Daily News on Wednesday that plenty of tickets for WKU’s season opener against Kentucky on Sept. 1 at LP Field in Nashville are still available.

In fact, Stewart said that there are more than plenty – as neither WKU, nor UK, has met early expectations for sales numbers at this point.

“The ticket sales aren’t meeting expectations,” Stewart said. “We had high expectations about the excitement of the game, got a lot of positive feedback when the contract was signed and featured a game in Nashville and we feel that a lot of people are excited with our program. There’s a freshness there with coach (Willie) Taggart and the success of Bobby Rainey.

“There’s not a problem with awareness or excitement, but it’s not translating into ticket sales. Some of the feedback we’ve gotten in our ticket office is that all the good seats were taken, or that there aren’t any good seats available – and that’s not the case. If everyone that has a ticket right now, showed up on Sept. 1 – 75 percent of the stadium would be empty.”

Stewart did not the divulge the actual number of tickets presently sold, and said that the university still has high hopes for the overall attendance in Nashville, as the game is some two weeks away.

“Historically we’ve moved a lot of tickets during the week before a game, so there’s time,” Stewart said. “But we want people to know that there are a lot of great tickets and a lot of great seats available for this game.

“This is a unique opportunity and we need to compete in that game – but we also need a great showing from our fans. It’s a great opportunity to showcase our university in front of a national audience. We know that the game being on a Thursday isn’t helpful, but we had no choice there. We know the economy’s not good and we know that we haven’t had a lot of success – we know we need to win more games. … But this is a great opportunity.”

The game will kick off at 8:15 p.m. on Sept. 1 from LP Field in Nashville, and the first 4,000 WKU students attending get in free with a valid ID.

Ticket prices range from $28-$63, and can be purchased through WKU by phone at 1-800-5-BIGRED, or at wkusports.com.





WKU-Louisville hoops to air on ESPN2 Dec. 23

17 08 2011

Release per WKU:

The BIG EAST Conference announced Wednesday that the December 23 men’s basketball showdown between WKU and Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, will be televised live on ESPN2 at 6:00 PM (CT).

The game, WKU’s final non-conference game of the 2011-12 season, will be the Hilltoppers’ first visit to the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville, which opened prior to the 2010-11 season. It also marks the fourth and final game in a four-year playing agreement between the Hilltoppers and Louisville, which began with WKU’s victory over the third-ranked Cardinals on November 30, 2008 in Nashville, Tenn. Louisville won both games the last two seasons at Freedom Hall in Louisville in 2009 and in Bowling Green one year ago.

A new four-year series begins next season with a game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. WKU will host the Cardinals in E.A. Diddle Arena during the 2014-15 season.

WKU leads the all-time series between the two schools, 39-35.

More information on game times and television broadcasts for WKU’s 2011-12 season will be released in the coming weeks.

WKU Adds Exhibition Game to Schedule: The Hilltoppers will host Xavier (La.) in an exhibition game for the third-straight season on Saturday, November 5. WKU defeated the Gold Rush 90-37 in 2009 and 84-69 prior to the 2010-11 campaign.





NCAA contacts WKU president’s office to speak with Jake Morton

17 08 2011

Western Kentucky athletic director Ross Bjork issued a statement to the Daily News this morning confirming that the NCAA has contacted WKU to express a desire to speak with men’s basketball assistant coach Jake Morton about an investigation into Miami’s athletic department.

The statement, from Bjork:

“Per protocol, the NCAA contacted the President’s office regarding their investigation of the University of Miami and their desire to speak with Jake Morton, who was a member of the Miami basketball staff during the timeframe of the alleged allegations. Jake will cooperate fully.”

WKU also said this morning that the NCAA has not requested to speak with Bjork himself on the matter.

Bjork served as an associate athletic director at Miami from 2003-05 – the allegations laid down by former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro in Tuesday’s Yahoo! Sports report were said to have taken place from 2002-2010.

Bjork was not said to have anything to do with the alleged allegations in the Yahoo! report, and was at UCLA during the time of Morton’s alleged involvement in the situation.





WKU hoops assistant Jake Morton mentioned in Yahoo! report on Miami violations

16 08 2011

The story outlines a Yahoo! Sports investigation on rogue Miami booster Nevin Shapiro – who is currently in prison for his role in a Ponzi Scheme.

WKU athletics director Ross Bjork responded to a request for comment on the matter today by the Daily News with a statement.

“We are aware of the allegation related to Jake Morton, and he denies any wrong doing,” Bjork said. “Jake came to us highly recommended, Ken McDonald and I both did our homework during the interview process,  and Jake passed our background checks before we hired him.

“These allegations occurred while Jake was a member of the University of Miami basketball coaching staff.  We will cooperate completely and accordingly with the NCAA and the University of Miami during their investigations.”

 

Here is the excerpt mentioning Morton – a former Miami assistant who was hired by WKU coach Ken McDonald this offseason.

Shapiro said he violated NCAA rules with the knowledge or direct participation of at least six coaches – Clint Hurtt, Jeff Stoutland and Aubrey Hill on the football staff, and Frank Haith, Jake Morton and Jorge Fernandez on the basketball staff. Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports Shapiro also violated NCAA rules with football assistant Joe Pannunzio, although the booster refused to answer any questions about that relationship. Shapiro also named assistant football equipment manager Sean Allen as someone who engaged in rulebreaking, and equipment managers Ralph Nogueras and Joey Coreyas witnesses to some of his impropriety.

Among the specific incidents, Shapiro or other sources say Hurtt, Hill, Stoutland, Pannunzio and Allen all delivered top-tier recruits to Shapiro’s home or luxury suite so the booster could make recruiting pitches to them. Among the players who were ushered to Shapiro while they were still in high school: Eventual Miami commitments Ray-Ray Armstrong, Dyron Dye and Olivier Vernon (prompted by Hurtt); eventual Florida commitments Andre Debose (Hurtt) and Matt Patchan (prompted by Stoutland and Pannunzio); eventual Georgia commitment Orson Charles (Pannunzio); and eventual Central Florida commitment Jeffrey Godfrey (Allen).

The University of Alabama (Pannunzio and Soutland), University of Florida (Hill) and Louisville University (Hurtt) all declined to make the coaches available for interviews. Allen declined comment, calling all of Shapiro’s claims “egregious and false.”

But Shapiro insists he came in contact with multiple recruits improperly during their official or unofficial visits going all the way back to 2002.

“Hell yeah, I recruited a lot of kids for Miami,” Shapiro said. “With access to the clubs, access to the strip joints. My house. My boat. We’re talking about high school football players. Not anybody can just get into the clubs or strip joints. Who is going to pay for it and make it happen? That was me.”

The booster said his role went one step farther with the basketball program, when he paid $10,000 to help secure the commitment of recruit DeQuan Jones. Shapiro said the transaction was set up by assistant coach Jake Morton in 2007 who acted as the conduit for the funds, and was later acknowledged by head coach Frank Haith in a one-on-one conversation.

Haith denied Shapiro’s claims through a University of Missouri spokesman. Morton, who is now at Western Kentucky, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Shapiro also entertained then-prominent AAU basketball coach Moe Hicks in October of 2008, with a nightclub visit that was attended by both Morton and Fernandez.

For the full Yahoo! report – click the link HERE:





WKU football practice notes

16 08 2011

Western Kentucky hit the practice field early this morning for a two-a-day workout, a few notes.

Sophomore running back Antonio Andrews is no longer just a running back.

The coaching staff has lined him up at running back, wide receiver, quarterback, punt returner and kick returner this season in a role he simply described as a ‘hybrid.’

Andrews says that in a perfect world, he’d have just one position so he could learn to ‘perfect’ it, but he’s excited about having a chance to be on the field in a variety of roles this season.

“They’re just trying to get me on the field,” Andrews said. “They just want the ball in my hand more and want to allow me to make plays. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team get some ‘w’s’ as a whole.”

WKU coach Willie Taggart said that the idea came to him to use Andrews in multiple spots last season, when he got confused as to whether it was Andrews or senior running back Bobby Rainey in the backfield at a given time.

“A few times last year when he got into the game at running back I thought it was Bobby back there,” he said. “Then I’d look over and see Bobby standing next to me – and that’s when I figured out that (Andrews) has something in him, he’s special.

“And he doesn’t do us any good on the sidelines.”

Taggart said he felt that Andrews could be used in a similar manner to how Kentucky used Randall Cobb.

Andrews says he’s aware of how players like Cobb and others took the hybrid role and ran with it. But he was quick to point out that he’s not Randall Cobb or anyone else – he’s Antonio Andrews.

And he intends on making that known.

“They’re good examples,” he said. “I’m just trying to do it better.”

– Taggart said Tuesday that WKU president Gary Ransdell made a visit to practice recently and followed the example originally set by Patrick Reynolds earlier this month.

Shortly after fall camp began, Reynolds – a member of the 2002 1-AA national title team – spoke to the team following a workout, and said that he would be leaving his championship ring at WKU until the Hilltoppers won a Sun Belt title.

Reynolds urged other former players to do the same, and Taggart – an assistant on that team – followed suit.

And now, Taggart says, so has Ransdell.

“That was huge, I was shocked, but I loved it,” Taggart said. “There are a lot of people counting on us and that want this football team to do well and expect great things from us. And they’re starting to understand that – the president comes and gives up his ring and says he wants his ring back, and quick.

“That means it’s time to get to work.”

Taggart also said that legendary coach Jimmy Feix made a visit to practice Sunday, a moment that was special for all involved.

“We just wanted him to tell the guys what WKU is all about and about the tradition,” he said. “He told them he was proud of them, that he’d be following them and that winning isn’t new around here.

“He’s the definition of blue-collar – that’s what he was. It was good for our team to see that, and it was great. Our guys hear about coach Feix, but for a lot of guys it was their first time to see him. He was going to speak to the team last year, but got sick. So it was good for them to meet him and see the guy that the field’s named after.”

Taggart also said that the team would begin introducing Kentucky packages this week.

Nothing too complex, but a few looks here and there to begin preparation for the season opener on Sept. 1.

“We’ll just have a few periods this week to introduce UK’s offense, defense and special teams to them,” Taggart said. “Just to put it into their heads a little.”








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