The Southeastern Conference officially announced on Sunday that Texas A&M University will join the conference effective on July 1, 2012. The Aggies will begin competition in all varsity sports beginning in the 2012-13 academic year. The announcement marks the first time the SEC has expanded since South Carolina and Arkansas each joined the league in 1991.
Texas A&M's brings the current SEC membership up to 13 institutions and the Aggies immediately add to the standard of athletic excellence of the conference. Texas A&M boasts a tradition-rich football and three national championship programs from 2010-11: men's and women's track and women's basketball.
University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart worked under current Texas A&M Athletics Director Bill Byrne while at Oregon in 1983 and reacted to the news on Twitter this evening.
"On behalf of the coaches, administrators and student-athletes at UK, I would like to welcome the Texas A&M Aggies to the SEC," Barnhart tweeted. "Coming off its best year athletically in school history, Texas A&M adds a strong athletic program along with its academic prowess. I look forward to competing against one of my mentors, Bill Byrne, for years to come."
Current associate head coach and former UK tennis star Cedric Kauffmann is one of six 2011 inductees into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. (UK Athletics)
In conjunction with tomorrow's football game against Florida, UK Athletics is hosting Hall of Fame Weekend Friday and Saturday. Six former student-athletes are being recognized as a part of the 2011 class: Jeff Abbott (baseball), Pam Browning (women's basketball), Ilkka Jantti (men's soccer), Cedric Kauffmann (men's tennis), Bill Ransdell (football) and former administrator Russell Rice.
Jeff Abbott (1991-94) was a UK baseball All-American and a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 1994 after setting single-season school records for batting average (.445), hits (102), home runs (23), total bases (203) and slugging (.886), all of which still stand today. Abbott also holds the UK single-season on-base percentage mark of .533 set in 1992 and ranks in the top five in eight career offensive categories, including batting average, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage, walks and on-base percentage. UK won at least 30 games in each of his four years, including a then-school-record 41 wins in 1991. Abbott's class posted more wins in a four-year span than any other class in school history. He went on to play five seasons in the major leagues with the Chicago White Sox.
Pam Browning (1974-78) is one of only two players in UK women's basketball history to be named All-America by Street & Smith's annual publication (1977). She ranks fifth on UK's career scoring list with 1,598 points and she continues to hold the school record for highest scoring average in a season, averaging 25.5 points in 1976-77. As a member of the first women's basketball team at UK in the modern era, she led UK to its first two wins over ranked opponents in program history with victories over No. 2 Tennessee Tech and No. 18 Indiana during the 1976-77 campaign. Browning averaged 14.9 points during her four-year career.
Ilkka Jantti (1998-2001) was the first All-American in UK men's soccer history. The four-time NSCAA All-Region honoree was named the 2001 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, the 1998 MAC Newcomer of the Year and earned All-MAC honors in all four years at UK. Jantti took Kentucky to three NCAA Tournament appearances and led UK to back-to-back MAC regular-season championships in 2000 and 2001, as well as MAC Tournament titles for three straight years from 1999-2001. In addition to being named to the All-Tournament team twice, Jantti was a first-team NSCAA/adidas Scholar All-American, a Verizon Academic All-American, a winner of a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and he was named to the conference academic honor roll three times. Cedric Kauffmann (1995-98) was the first three-time All-American in singles play in Kentucky men's tennis history. Kauffmann went 121-61 during his four-year career at UK and finished in the top 10 in the country from 1996-98. He climbed as high as No. 2 in 1997. Kauffmann was a National Clay Court Singles Championship finalist in 1997 and a National Indoor Singles Championships semifinalist in 1996. He played on the ATP Tour after his time at Kentucky and reached as high as the world's No. 170 ranking. Kauffmann competed in the 2001 French Open and the 2000 United States Open, losing in a fifth-set tiebreaker at the 2001 French Open to tennis legend Pete Sampras. He was hired as the UK men's tennis assistant coach in 2005 and currently serves as the associate head coach.
Bill Ransdell (1983-86) is one of the top quarterbacks in UK history. He set Wildcat season records for most offensive plays, total offense, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yardage, completion percentage and consecutive passes without an interception. He held single-game UK records for total plays, pass attempts, completions and completion percentage and notched then-school career records for total offense (5,456 yards), total offensive plays (996), pass attempts (816), completions (460), passing yardage (5,564) and completion percentage (.575). Ransdell also helped lead the Wildcats to a 9-3 record and Hall of Fame Bowl victory in 1984 and went on to a two-year career in the NFL. He has been an analyst on UK TV network telecasts and also has served as president of the K-Association lettermen's group.
Russell Rice (1967-87) is a former UK Athletics administrator who was associated with UK Athletics for more than a half-century. Rice spent 20 years on the UK staff from 1967 to 1987, including 18 as a sports information director. He wrote several books chronicling the history of Wildcat men's basketball and football programs and served as media coordinator for several NCAA men's basketball tournaments hosted by UK. Rice was also a president of the SEC Sports Information Directors Association. For more than 20 years since his retirement from UK, Rice has written a weekly column for The Cats' Pause magazine and has been a historical resource for UK Athletics. A World War II veteran (U.S. Marines) and a UK graduate, Rice spent 16 years in the media after graduation, including five years as sports editor of the Lexington Leader, before joining the UK staff.
The Hall of Fame was established in 2005 as a way to honor notable contributions to the athletic program. Following departure from UK, candidates must wait five years before becoming eligible. Election of new inductees is carried out each year by a committee of Hall of Famers, media, campus representatives and current coaches and administrators.
There's a reason they call the yards gained or lost on special teams "hidden": it's because that part of the game is not talked about noticed nearly as much as it probably should be. That's not so much of an issue this week, as Florida's special teams unit and what UK must do to combat it on Saturday have very hot topics. I wrote on the subject yesterday and so did Michael Grant of the Courier-Journal. Clearly, UK will need to hold its own in the battle for field position to win this weekend.
Facing the difficult challenge of playing the third-ranked team in one of the nation's best venues, the men's soccer team succumbed to Creighton by a score of 2-0 last night. Though disappointing to the team, there is no shame in dropping a road decision against a defensive unit that has yet to allow a goal this season. The No. 21 Wildcats (6-3-1) returned to Lexington very early this morning and will immediately begin preparing for a home matchup against Evansville at 7 p.m. tomorrow. The turnaround will be tough, but UK has shown the ability to rebound from losses this season. Head on over the UK Soccer Complex tomorrow evening to see one of the most entertaining teams on campus take the field.
While men's soccer is returning home, volleyball is getting ready to hit the road. After a month-long home stretch that saw the Cats win nine matches in a row and 27-of-29 sets, UK (11-2) hits the road for a pair of tests this weekend. It begins in Gainesville, Fla., with the most difficult match the SEC has to offer against the No. 6 Florida Gators. Balanced performances have carried UK to its recent success and those will need to be duplicated as UK begins its run at the SEC title in earnest this weekend.
Football - The Kentucky football team dropped its first game of the season Saturday, falling to in-state rival Louisville 24-17 at Commonwealth Stadium. - Morgan Newton threw for career-highs with 255 yards and 27 completions. - Senior linebacker Danny Trevathan paced the UK defense with his 12th-consecutive game of 10-plus tackles. Trevathan leads the SEC in tackles this season with 38.
Volleyball - With two victories this weekend, UK has now rattled off nine straight wins. In the stretch, UK has captured 27-of-29 sets. - Kentucky has opened with a win in SEC action in five-of-seven seasons under Craig Skinner. - In the win over Georgia, senior Ann Armes became the second player this season to total seven blocks in a match. - Freshman Lauren O'Conner posted a career-high 14 kills in the win over the Bulldogs.
Women's soccer - UK women's soccer suffered its first defeat of the season Saturday night against No. 24 Dayton, 2-1. UK's Kelsey Hunyadi netted Kentucky's only goal off a penalty kick in the 86th minute of the game. - Hunyadi has scored five goals through the first eight games of the season, making it one of the best individual starts in program history. Hunyadi has also added five assists to give her a team-high 15 points on the season. - Kentucky will enter SEC play this weekend with a 7-1-0 record that is tied for the best record in the conference with Tennessee.
Men's soccer - The No. 29 men's soccer team completed a dominating weekend with a 5-1 shellacking of No. 15 Brown on Sunday, claiming the 2011 Gamecock Classic, also picking up a 2-1 win over High Point on Friday. - Kentucky posted a 2-1 win over High Point, getting goals from Tyler Riggs and Matt Lodge, with Lodge netting the golden goal just under two minutes into overtime. On Sunday, UK got two goals from Riggs in the win, in addition to the first goals of the year from Josh McCrary, Josh Mulvany and Brendan Murphy. UK's five goal outing marked its highest scoring output since the season opener in 2008. - Kentucky has been paced by an explosive offensive attack through nine games, ranking as the Conference USA leader in nearly every offensive category. Overall, UK has scored 22 goals in nine games and owns a 161-84 advance in shots and a 69-33 lead in corners against its opponents. UK is averaging 2.44 goals per game and an eye-popping 17.9 shots per game. The Wildcats have been led offensively by Riggs and Lodge, with Riggs ranking among the NCAA leaders with eight goals in nine games. Lodge has netted six goals with five assists.
Cross country - The UK men's and women's cross country teams each earned first-place team honors at the Tennessee Invitational, a dual meet between UK and Tennessee. The men's team accumulated 23 points and the women's team had 26 points. - Junior runner Luis Orta won his second-consecutive meet of the season with a time of 25:07.34 on the 8K course. The men's team's win was also its second-consecutive win of the season. - Junior Chelsea Oswald led the women's team for the second straight meet. Oswald ran the women's 5K course in a time of 18:13.22, the second fastest women's time.
Men's golf - The UK men's golf team shot a 3-over par 287 Sunday at the University Club of Kentucky to secure the team title at the UK Bluegrass Fall Invitational. The men's team finished the tournament with a final score of 12-over par 864 to win the team title by four strokes. - Sophomore Cody Martin continued his hot start to the 2011-12 season with his second-consecutive top-five finish. After finishing in a tie for fourth at the Marshall Invitational last week, Martin finished in second this weekend with a final score of 1-over par 214. - Sophomore Matthew Anderson, who played as an individual, finished in a tie for third with a final score of 3-over par 216. - Senior Mads Kristensen, juniors Joseph Barr and Chase Parker, and sophomore Stephen Powers and freshman David Snyder each finished in a tie for 13th place at 6-over par.
Men's tennis - Junior Anthony Rossi started the 2011 fall season in style, taking down No. 4 Henrique Cunha of Duke en route to the singles title at the Duke Fab Four Invitational. Rossi, who is ranked No. 95 in the nation, went 4-0 at the event and is now 49-20 in his career. - UK also received good play from sophomores Alejandro Gomez and Tom Jomby at the Olympia Fields Invitational in Chicago. Gomez went 4-0 on the weekend, defeating key players from several top-25 teams in Illinois, Texas and Notre Dame. Jomby totaled a 3-1 record at the event, including his first career win over a ranked foe when he defeated No. 28 Casey Watt of Notre Dame. - No. 20 Alex Musialek went 3-1 at the event, posting wins over two ranked players. The Frenchman took down No. 113 Ben Chen of Texas and No. 45 Nick Andrews of California.
Women's tennis - Sophomores Khristina Blajkevitch and Cece Witten took fifth place in doubles at the Kansas Invitational. - After winning in doubles, the duo of Caitlin McGraw and Jessica Stiles also excelled individually in their singles matches. Stiles faced Marcela Rivero cruising through the match to win in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. McGraw took on Daphne Friedrichs and won the match 6-3, 6-2.
Wednesday, Sept. 21 Men's soccer at Creighton - 8:00 p.m.
Friday, September 23 Men's soccer hosts Evansville - 7:00 p.m. Volleyball at Florida - 7:00 p.m. Women's soccer at Auburn - 8:30 p.m. Men's tennis at Southern Intercollegiate (Athens, Ga.)
Saturday, September 24 Football hosts Florida - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Southern Intercollegiate (Athens, Ga.) Sunday, September 25 Volleyball at South Carolina - 1:30 p.m. Women's soccer at Alabama - 2:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Southern Intercollegiate (Athens, Ga.)
Over the next week, UK Athletics will be participating in the "Together We Can" food drive. The drive benefits God's Pantry, a local food bank, and is coordinated by UK and the Southeastern Conference.
At the following three UK home events, fans will be able to participate:
Sept. 16, 2011 - Volleyball game vs. Auburn at Memorial Coliseum Sept. 23, 2011 - Men's Soccer game vs. Evansville at the UK Soccer Complex Sept. 24, 2011 - Football game vs. Florida at Commonwealth Stadium
At each of the three events, student-athlete volunteers will be collecting canned goods, non-perishable food items and monetary donations. Food collection bins will be located at entrances to Memorial Coliseum and the UK Soccer Complex. Fans donating five canned goods or perishable food items will receive free admission to volleyball and soccer games.
At the football game, student-athletes will circulate throughout Commonwealth Stadium parking lots with collection buckets.
To encourage participation, volleyball senior Ann Armes organized this video with fellow student-athletes. UK's student-athletes are going out of their way to get involved with this effort and I encourage you to support them.
In case you haven't seen it yet, UK Sports Video has started a brand new web video series called UK Rewind. The show will air weekly and will break down the best in UK Athletics from the preceding week with highlights, statistics and commentary. Make you sure you check back each week at UK Interactive for the latest episodes on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
This week's episode hosted by UK student Stacey Johnson went up this morning, take a look.
A little over two years ago, Twitter was an unknown to most of the Bluegrass. Things changed when John Calipari became head men's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.
Calipari took to Twitter and Wildcat fans did what they do better than any other fan base in the country: mobilize. It didn't take long for his follower count to climb into the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and eventually seven figures.
The micro-blogging platform gave Calipari a means to communicate directly with fans without a filter and its power was abundantly clear. It wouldn't be long before nearly the entire athletic department had a Twitter account (or three), from coaches to players to even Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.
It seemed to me that no university and its fan base had so embraced Twitter, thereby demonstrating the fervor of the Big Blue Nation. What I sought out to do was to quantify that claim by seeing how some of UK's top tweeters stack up with their counterparts at other schools throughout the SEC and nation.
Comparing Calipari's number of followers to his peers is a nearly pointless endeavor because he blows them all out of the water. He is the only head coach at the professional or collegiate level with more than a million followers.
WeFollow.com compiles lists of the most followed users on Twitter and Calipari is the only college basketball coach to rank in the top 250 sports users. In fact, Calipari ranks 12th among all athletes, coaches, teams and journalists, sandwiched between @espn and @orlando_magic.
Going beyond the world of sports, Calipari ranks 377th in followers among all Twitter users on the face of the earth according to Twitaholic. I recognize that not all of Calipari's followers live in Kentucky, but his 1.1 million followers are equal to over one-quarter of the entire state's population. @UKAthleticsNews climbs the ranks (24,257 followers)
Almost 25,000 followers might not seem like a lot compared with Coach Cal, but the official Twitter account of UK Athletics is just one of five athletic department Twitter accounts to have more than 20,000 followers. Here is how UK stacks up:
Further evidencing the power of Wildcat fans, @UKAthleticsNews sat in fourth place a few hundred followers behind Oklahoma when Calipari asked his followers to help UK "climb this Twitter ladder." A few hours and a bunch of retweets later, UK had moved up to third place.
Second place is well within reach and first isn't far off either. Let's see what Cats fans can do.
The football field isn't the only place where the "RISE" theme applies. Among all head football coaches in the SEC with official Twitter accounts, Phillips has the second most followers. Phillips joined Twitter just over a year ago and Les Miles is the only SEC coach with more followers.
1) Les Miles (LSU) - 36,310 followers (national leader) 2) @jokerphillips - 25,983 followers 3) Mark Richt (Georgia) - 23,379 followers 4) Derek Dooley (Tennessee) - 21,273 followers 5) Will Muschamp (Florida) - 19,202 followers 6) Houston Nutt (Ole Miss) - 9,749 followers 7) Gene Chizik (Auburn) - 7,784 followers 8) James Franklin (Vanderbilt) - 3,383 followers
Twitter is only beginning to enter the world of athletic directors, but UK's Mitch Barnhart has already jumped on board. One of just four SEC athletic directors with Twitter accounts, Barnhart is closing in on 10,000 followers and only Mississippi State's Scott Stricklin (former associate AD at UK) has more. Nationally, Michigan AD Dave Brandon leads with over 14,000 followers according to my research.
National leader: Dave Brandon (Michigan) - 14,229 followers 1) Scott Stricklin (Mississippi State) - 10,545 followers 2) @UKMitchBarnhart - 8,652 followers 3) Jeff Long (Arkansas) - 6,165 followers 4) Pete Boone (Ole Miss) - 3,264 followers
With back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the 2010 Elite Eight, Matthew Mitchell and UK Hoops have emerged on the national level. The emergence on the floor has been accompanied by one in the world of social media. Mitchell is second in both the SEC and nation in followers, trailing only Pat Summitt of Tennessee among women's college basketball coaches with Twitter accounts (again, according to my research).
Because you're reading this story right now you already know that the University of Kentucky athletics department has a blog, Cat Scratches, and you probably know that we tweet out a lot of news and links to stories on our Twitter handle: @UKAthleticsNews. If you didn't know that, well, now you do.
@UKAthleticsNews isn't the only account you can follow on Twitter to get the latest news about UK Athletics. Most of UK's 22 varsity sports programs have individual Twitter accounts, as well as a number of UK coaches. We have put together this convenient page to allow you to find out who from UK is on Twitter and where you can do to follow them.
Twitter may be your outlet of choice to get news about the Wildcats, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that many of you do not know about the many other platforms we offer for you to follow your favorite teams and student-athletes.
One of my favorite places to go is the UK Interactive site (http://interactive.ukathletics.com/). Each of the varsity sports teams at UK has an interactive page. Each page is filled with pictures, fancy graphics and video, and gives the teams a cutting edge look. The interactive site was launched in the fall of last year, and is being promoted more heavily this year. Be sure to check out some of your favorite teams' sites.
On the interactive pages you'll see many videos. Some of these videos are produced by, and can be found at, UKTube (http://www.ukathletics.com/allaccess/). As the name suggests, similar to YouTube, this is a site for Kentucky athletics videos. Often times the news conferences we film are later posted to UKTube. Want to see highlights for a game? Visit UKTube and you might be able to find what you're looking for.
Now I know many of you are fans of Twitter. (Guy Ramsey has put together a really cool post that will be published shortly chronicling just how much the Big Blue Nation loves Twitter). Well, for those of you who have Twitter and also for those of you who do not have Twitter, UK Athletics offers another service where you can receive sport-specific news, scores and updates straight to your phone. Sign up at Textcaster.com, pick the sport you want your phone to receive news about, and that's it. Depending on what you sign up for, you will always be in the loop on your favorite team. No longer will you have to search Twitter feeds. With Textcaster, text messages will be sent directly to your phone informing you of breaking news.
And if you want to talk to us during a big game and get our opinions on certain things, join our live blogs. We will live blog all home football and men's and women's basketball games and many other games and matches. If you don't want to comment, don't worry, no problem there - just sit back and see what others are saying. If you do want to comment on the live blogs or pick our brains about something, fantastic. We'd love to talk to you.
If you already knew about all of these resources then props to you and thank you for following Kentucky athletics. We're always trying to get better and always appreciate your comments and suggestions.
Football - Kentucky started its season last Thursday with its fifth-consecutive season opener win, taking down in-state foe Western Kentucky 14-3 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. - The Wildcats were led in the game by an impressive defensive performance, with three players recording double-figure tackles, including a game-high 13 by senior Danny Trevathan. Kentucky also earned four turnovers in the game, including two interceptions by senior Winston Guy. - Defensive lineman Luke McDermott paced the UK defensive front, limiting WKU's rushing attack, while tying a career high in tackles with four stops, including a sack. - Offensively, Kentucky freshman Josh Clemons started his collegiate career in solid fashion, leading UK in rushing with 11 carries for 39 yards and his first career touchdown. Clemons became the first UK true freshman running back to record a touchdown in the season opener since Donnell Gordon in 1993. - The Wildcats improved their winning streak to open the season to five. It's Kentucky's best start to a season since 2001 when UK opened up with seven straight wins.
Women's soccer - UK claimed the 2011 Courtyard by Marriott Airport Cardinal Classic championship with a pair of 2-1 wins over Central Michigan and Baylor. Kelsey Hunyadi, Danielle Krohn, Alyssa Telang and Ashley VanLandingham were named to the All-Tournament team. - Kelsey Hunyadi assisted on both game-winners on the weekend. Hunyadi also scored a goal, her fourth of the season, giving her a team-high 11 points. Hunyadi is off to the hottest individual start in program history. She has scored a point in every match this season and her 11 points is the most by any Wildcat in school history through the first five games. - Freshman Arin Gilliland scored her second goal of the season against Baylor, it was the game-winner, giving her two game-winners this season, tying fellow freshman Stuart Pope for the team lead in that category.
Men's soccer - The 21st-ranked Kentucky men's soccer team continued its hot start to the 2011 campaign in claiming the 10th-annual Kentucky Invitational championship over the weekend with a win over Wright State and a weather-shortened draw with IUPUI on Sunday at the UK Soccer Complex. - The Wildcats have showcased a dynamic offensive attack through the first four games of the year, including a breakout weekend that saw UK take 52 shots and register 30 corner kicks in two games. Headlining UK's offensive charge was junior Matt Lodge, who turned in an epic weekend with two goals and one assist, firing a staggering 14 shots in the two games. Lodge hit the crossbar twice and the post twice during the weekend, with a pair of magnificent goals in each game. - Overall offensively, UK owns eight goals and 11 assists through four games, allowing four opponent goals, with three goals coming on penalty kicks. UK owns an 88-25 shot advantage and a 43-9 advantage in corner kicks through the four season-opening games. - Sophomore Tyler Riggs has led UK with four goals and an assist, while Lodge opened his scoring with a pair of goals this weekend. Senior C.J. Tappel owns a goal and an assist, while senior Brad Walker has added a header goal on a corner kick.
Volleyball - The Kentucky volleyball team enjoyed a 3-1 week which was highlighted by three straight sweeps to capture the Kentucky Classic crown this weekend. - Junior libero Stephanie Klefot led the way with 5.25 digs per set for the week and she earned MVP honors of the tournament for her efforts. - Freshman Lauren O'Conner had an unforgettable coming out party as she was tabbed to the All-Tournament team following three consecutive performance with 10 or more kills. She paced the UK attack with 3.09 kills per stanza which included a career-high 13 in a tournament-clinching win over Virginia Tech. - Setter Christine Hartmann was the final Wildcat to earn All-Tournament team honors after directing UK to a tournament-best .220 hitting clip and leading four players to 2.20 kills per set or higher.
Cross country - The Wildcats got off to a strong start to open the 2011 season with the men's team winning the Belmont-VU Opener and the women's team finishing in third place. The men's team accumulated 62 points while the women's team had 76 points. - Luis Orta won the 5K men's race with a time of 15:22.40. Orta defeated 99 other runners and the win is Orta's second consecutive season-opening win. Orta has led the Wildcats in six of the last seven cross country races. - Kentucky freshman Mackay Wilson put together an impressive first race with the third fastest time on the team and the 14th fastest overall. - The women's team was led by Chelsea Oswald, who finished the 4K race in 11th place overall. - Megan Broderick, who completed four strong years with the women's tennis team, did very well in her first-ever collegiate cross country meet, finishing in 16th place and recording the third-fastest time on the team. Upcoming schedule
Tuesday, September 6 Men's soccer hosts IPFW - 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, September 7 Volleyball hosts Louisville - 7:00 p.m.