Tablet Sports

Mac Engel: It’s not just Kentucky that has lost its mind

Kentucky has reached the title game, meaning coach John Calipari may not get fired right away. Knowing this fan base, you can never be too sure.

One week ago, I wrote after UK defeated Michigan in the Elite Eight: “A warning: This may be the single most obnoxious, self-congratulatory, priority-skewed fan base in a nation full of them. To them, Sunday’s outcome is a birthright. To their credit, they are usually right.”

(Full disclosure: I was raised in Indiana, so my feelings are pure regarding Kentucky.)

One week later, after Big Blue Nation descended on Arlington to celebrate itself, I am more convinced than ever the above sentiments are true. Equally true: To suggest that it is just Kentucky would be wrong.

This is not a liberal idealist-rant versus sports. I love sports. Sports are great, but to build a university on a football or basketball team feels a little … dumb.

All of this time, effort and “resources” (i.e. money) spent supporting a basketball team or football team is beyond stupid and part of a much larger issue going on in places other than Kentucky.

It’s Alabama. It’s LSU. It’s Texas, too. It’s a pandemic of misplaced priorities.

According to the 18th edition of the Report Card on American Education, the state of Kentucky received a stellar D-plus and ranked 37th in the nation in education.

Why is Kentucky paying a basketball coach more than $5 million a year? Why is the mayor of Lexington unveiling plans for a new Rupp Arena, the home of the basketball team, that will cost approximately $310 million?

Why did Kentucky spend $13.7 million on basketball according to the Education Department, in 2012-13?

In fairness to the good people of the Blue Grass state, it ain’t just Kentucky.

Why is Texas A&M spending $450 million to increase the seating capacity at Kyle Field to 102,500 when this venue is used fewer than 10 times a year?

Why is Texas studying proposals to expand its football stadium, which seats 100,119? Isn’t that enough?

None of this spending is making our communities much better, other than the local team, which affects nothing more than morale.

LSU, Alabama, Arkansas all have major economic and education problems but the football programs receive millions in private and public funding while the major problems that need financial assistance struggle to get by.

Alabama ranks fifth-worst in high school graduation, and LSU chugs behind at sixth. Their college football teams, however, usually are near the top — which is what really matters.

The fandom that surrounds programs such as Kentucky go beyond that of a fan. They are fanatical.

“You have to realize what’s important,” UK freshmen guard Andrew Harrison said when I asked if he was aware of the expectations for his team and if it was ever too much. “You have to realize who you are playing for — you are playing for your teammates and yourself.”

He didn’t mean to do it, but that’s a dig.

Kentucky ran off Tubby Smith in 2007 after 10 seasons, a national title and a .760 winning percentage. Some idiot fan from Alabama poisoned Auburn’s famous trees because he was angry about a football game.

Most of the highest-paid state employees in the United States are either the head football or men’s basketball coach at the flagship state school. Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin makes more than $5 million per year while UT’s football coach gets a paltry $3.7 million salary.

The Austin-American Statesman recently published a report that said it cost UT nearly $13 million just to change head football coaches earlier this year.

Whether you like or hate Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Kansas or whoever, we can all agree this spending on college sports has grown way beyond dumb. Why aren’t we doing anything about it?

And all of this money has put ridiculous pressure on the coaches, administrators and the kids at these schools to win a national title every other month. The money has made us mean and nasty toward people we inherently want to like.

The good news is that since Calipari has arrived, UK has been to three Final Fours, won a title, and could win another. That should be able to keep him at Kentucky for at least another season.


Jerry World is now officially cursed. It’s early April and how else to explain this horrible weather we are experiencing other than it must be because AT&T Stadium is holding a national event.

And it wasn’t just the rain Sunday morning. Shuttles have reportedly been behind schedule, and the power at the main media hotel was out for several hours. The last thing any event planner wants is a fussy group of already fussy media.

The NBA’s All-Star Game came to Cowboys Stadium in February 2010, and that weekend DFW received a record 9.8 inches of snow. It was the most snow recorded for the area in 111 years.

In February 2011, the Super Bowl came to DFW. Early that week, we received 3.7 inches of snow, but the temperatures remained in the 20s and kept things frozen.

On the good side, the weather for soccer events, bull riding, bowling and yoga events at AT&T Stadium has been wonderful.