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A Big Blue New Year

By Michele Brown

A brand new year is upon us. As we reflect on the year that has just completed, it’s only natural to look ahead to the new year and hope for better things. Toward that end, here is my list of things I’d like to see in 2016.

UK Football

My first wish has already become reality – a new Offensive Coordinator in Eddie Gran. While I certainly don’t put all the blame for this past season’s disaster on former OC Shannon Dawson, it was crystal clear that change was needed.
Healthy kickers. One of our ongoing issues throughout the season was giving our opponents excellent field position after kickoffs and punts. We know Austin MacGinnis suffered a groin injury early in the season, one from which I feel he never fully recovered.
Clock management. My hope is that our coaching staff has learned the importance of being “clock aware,” both with the game and play clocks. It’s not rocket science, folks. Put someone in charge of watching the clock if need be.
Special teams should be, well, special. I know Coach Stoops seemed pretty determined to move forward without a special teams coordinator. However, disorganization and confusion seemed to be the norm rather than the exception where our special teams were concerned this past season. Again, it’s not rocket science to suggest that we need to do something different in 2016.
Locker room harmony. We may never know the full extent of the divide that clearly existed in the Wildcats locker room. What we do know, however, is that this issue needs to be resolved swiftly and sternly. Period.
Bowl game. While the 2016 schedule is going to be exceptionally difficult, I still believe the Wildcats can pull together and get the necessary wins to be bowl-eligible.
UK Basketball

I want to see Alex Poythress ROAR all season.
Get healthy and stay healthy. The Cats have been bit by the injury bug on a continual basis this season (Willis, Hawkins, Ulis, Briscoe). I think we’ve had more than our share of bumps, bruises, breaks, strains and sprains.
Players having fun. When the Cats are having fun, rest assured, the fans are having fun as well.
Banner #9. Need I say more?

Quicker turnaround in investigations.
Rules that make sense in today’s amateur sports landscape.
I’ll take progress in any of those 3 categories. It has become increasingly apparent that the NCAA has grown into a gigantic money-producing machine (mind you, one that operates under the heading of “non-profit organization”), concerned little with the actual needs of the athletes they claim to protect and support. It’s time to drastically change the entire organization or just scrap it and start from scratch.

The Big Blue Nation

Broader horizons. Sure, UK Basketball is the jewel in our Athletics Department’s crown. We don’t have to encourage people to be fans of the Wildcats on the court. And even with all the frustrations with Kentucky Football, we still have a very rabid fan base. Coach Mitchell’s Hoops team is steadily building a strong following as the ladies continue to be nationally ranked, year after year. But I’d love to see more of the BBN embrace our great non-revenue teams, like volleyball, soccer, softball, baseball, track and field, gymnastics and rifle. All of these programs have been rising steadily over the past 10 years and are huge contributors to UK’s climb in the national Director’s Cup race. Tickets are very affordable and the venues are improving yearly.
Patience. Patience during a game, patience for players’ development and patience for fellow BBN members. A bad play during the first 5 minutes of a game does not automatically spell gloom and doom. A freshman struggling in December should not be labeled as a “wasted scholarship.” And a fan who doesn’t cheer the same way you do should not be told they aren’t a “real” fan. The team can bounce back, the player can work hard and improve, and in the end, all the fans want successful teams.
Stop feeding the trolls. I don’t have to list the names. By now, you should be more than familiar with the national writers that are consistent with their anti-UK articles. Don’t reward them by giving their websites the clicks they so desperately crave. If we can stop reacting, no matter how absurd their stories are, they will eventually stop with the nonsense if they aren’t getting hits.
Banner #9. Need I say more?

My list is ambitious and lengthy, but if you’re going to dream, I say dream big. Whatever 2016 holds for us, though, I am ready for a Big Blue New Year.

Follow me on Twitter @ForeverBigBlue

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