UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 12 years and nine years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography
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In writing about our conversation with college football writer Tony Barnhart earlier this week, we noted how he thought taking a program from good to great was harder than trying to turn around a program that was down and out. Joker Phillips understands the point, but he's not overwhelmed by the challenge either.
"Some might view it as a challenge. I view it as a huge opportunity," Phillips said. "As a person that's been around this program, I understand where this program needs some fire in it and (I) understand the strength of the program. We've tried to up the ante as far as where we thought we needed to improve."
Phillips said his team has pretty much accomplished the goals he set at the start of spring practice and he's just looking for a good finish in Friday's Blue-White Spring Game.
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It could be a very interesting summer for college sports in the area of conference expansion. Right now, everyone seems to be waiting to see what move the Big Ten will make.
"There is no question that the Big Ten, after keeping this issue on the back burner for a long time, it is now on the front burner," Tony Barnhart told tomleachky.com last week. "I talked to people in the Big Ten at the Final Four and those people are looking at everything from doing nothing to adding one team or going as high and as many as 16 teams and putting together the first mega conference.
"I think the big television deals are coming up and they want to make a splash. They saw the SEC and the 15-year, three-billion dollar deal that the SEC did with CBS and ESPN and they say, 'We need to do something big.' When those dominos fall it will be interesting to see what everyone does."
How will other leagues counter the Big Ten's moves?
"I think the Pac 10 definitely wants to expand because they are not happy with the television package right now," Barnhart said. "They don't get nearly enough. They get very little exposure on the East Coast because they play so late on Saturday night. I don't know where they go. They talk about getting BYU and Colorado. I don't know what that gives you in terms of television exposure.
"The ACC has an interesting decision to make because if the Big Ten goes to the Big East and takes two or three of their teams, there is a possibility that the Big East can be out of the football business. You can see a West Virginia, South Florida, Louisville, and Cincinnati sitting out without a home. What would the ACC do? Their contracts are coming up and they are not happy with their earnings. I am not so sure that the SEC has to do anything. They might, but I am not sure they will have to.
"One thing I learned that if you expand, you need to bring in teams that give you value. What I mean by that is if you are a 12-team league and are making 120 million dollars a year in shared revenue, so everyone makes 10 million dollars a year. You bring two more teams -- you need to make 140 million dollars. One thing I learned in this league is that nobody wants less money. So, who could the SEC add that could give them the value of their television package with two more teams?
Barnhart answered his own question.
"There is only one team I feel that even comes close and that is Texas," Barnhart said."With Texas ready to entertain a larger money offer from the SEC? That would be the question. If that happens and the SEC wants to expand, the first phone call I make if I am Commissioner (Mike) Slive is the University of Texas. I think it will be a crazy summer."