A few VERY quick notes to close out your Wednesday, and I'll spare you any preambles:
The big news around these parts is the naming of Cedric Kauffmann as Dennis Emery's replacement. Kauffmann will take over Kentucky men's tennis after eight seasons as an assistant to Emery, the last four as associate head coach. Kauffmann, who was a three-time All-American during his playing career at UK in the late-1990s, is regarded as one of the bright young minds in the college game. Congratulations to Cedric and look for a feature on him later this week.
Speaking of new head coaches, Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network posted a Q & A with Edrick Floreal of UK track and field. He talks about why he took the UK job, his illustrious college career and coaching in the upcoming Olympic games. Check it out.
It's almost time for some football. Thursday and Friday will feature plenty of gridiron-related content, as I'll be attending both the Governor's Cup and Kickoff Luncheons. In addition, we're starting a series of features spotlighting some of UK's incoming freshman on Thursday.
This week, the Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships are being hosted at the Boone Tennis Center. In addition to seeing UK's all-time winningest tennis player - Eric Quigley - you also may notice a former Kentucky basketball player on the courts in an unexpected capacity.
WKYT has the story about Todd Svoboda - a member of the 1992-93 Wildcats - serving as a very tall ball boy.
Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as UK's head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For longtime head coaches, stepping aside can be the hardest thing to do. Oftentimes, the job becomes such an interwoven part of their identity that retirement almost becomes an impossibility.
Even though he had been at the helm for three decades, Dennis Emery was never going to be the coach who held on too long. Emery wanted to leave the position he had held for so long of his own accord. He wanted to leave the position he had held for so long at the peak of his powers.
"I always wanted to go out on top," Emery said. "I never wanted to feel like there was any slippage in my performance."
In announcing his retirement as head coach of Kentucky men's tennis on Tuesday, Emery did just that.
In his 30 years as a Wildcat, Emery redefined the program he so capably led. He left Austin Peay in 1983 to take the job at UK, one that paid $13,100 per year without benefits, a dollar amount Emery says is "burned into my mind." Since then, UK has been transformed into a team to be reckoned with on a conference and national level.
Emery finished his last season with 655 career wins - 568 of which came at Kentucky - ranking him sixth nationally among all coaches. He coached his Wildcats to 23 NCAA Tournaments and won three Southeastern Conference coach of the year awards, the last of which came this past season, fulfilling Emery's goal of finishing strong.
Throughout the 2012 season, it was clear whenever Emery spoke that he felt he had a special group. With a pair of seniors in Eric Quigley and Alex Musialek leading a team Emery called the most talented he'd ever coached, UK completed a perfect SEC regular season, a feat unmatched in Emery's first 29 seasons. Postseason play would lead to a disappointing Sweet 16 loss, Quigley would help ease the pain by advancing all the way to the finals of the NCAA Singles Championships, cementing his legacy as Emery's - and therefore UK's - most decorated player.
Like his coach, Quigley, along with Musialek, is off to the next phase of his life. The departure of the senior duo leaves a void that will not be easily filled, but Emery isn't leaving because of the program's uncertain future. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
"I know we're losing (Eric) Quigley and we're losing (Alex) Musialek, who were two great players, two top-10 all-time winners here, but we've got a really good, solid foundation and a good class coming in," Emery said. "I feel great about the direction we're going. In fact, I'm stepping away now because I feel so good about the direction we're going."
The search for Emery's successor will begin immediately, a process Barnhart expects to move "fairly quickly."
Listening to and reading Emery's comments, it's hard to miss his use of the word "we" when referring to UK. Of course, it would be hard to blame him for reflexively calling himself a part of the school he came to call home, but in this case, the term still applies.
The retirement announcement was accompanied by the news that Emery will remain on staff as special assistant to the athletics director. Emery will of course maintain close ties to the men's tennis program, but his new role is based on the countless relationships he has built in the community during his time as head coach.
"If you talk to Dennis at any point in time and you say, 'I met this guy' and you give him a name he will say, 'Oh, I coached his son, or I coached his daughter. Or, I saw his child play,' " Barnhart said. "Sure enough, he has."
Barnhart will look to Emery to assume immediate responsibility in fundraising - an area in which Emery has already shown an aptitude - and in serving as a representative for UK.
"I think that there are a variety of things that I would hope and I think that he would absolutely thrive on," Barnhart said. "It's the ability to be an incredible ambassador for things that I can't get to all of the time, places we can't go and places we need representation. Really, really important. Two, fostering relationships with people that we have not been able to, at times, do as good a job as we need to do."
Barnhart was the one who first conceived of Emery's new position, but Emery didn't need much convincing.
"Going forward, when Mitch came to me, it's something I've always wanted to do, what he proposed to me, it seemed like what he was saying fit perfectly with the skill set I have," Emery said.
The fit may have been perfect and the timing just right, but the decision to move on was not taken lightly and it certainly wasn't made without emotion. In spite of his best efforts to avoid displaying that emotion in announcing the decision, a tearful Emery couldn't hide his feelings.
"I just feel like God has really blessed me over these 30 years to do what I'm doing and I'm doing it here," Emery said. "It's a very special place."
Emery has come to be a big part of what makes it special and one that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
"We are fortunate as an institution to have the Emery family and to have specifically this guy be a part of us for 30 years, and what I would hope is 10 to 15 more," Barnhart said. "Somewhere in that range, but I mean it is his call. We've got a spot for him to help us become the university that we want to be. We know how much it means to him and we want to make sure we honor that, but more importantly take advantage of all the skills that he has and the love he has for this university."
Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as head coach of UK men's tennis. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
For the second time this summer, a University of Kentucky coaching legend has stepped down.
On Tuesday morning, legendary men's tennis head coach announced his retirement after 30 years in the position. Longtime track and field coach Don Weber did the same last month. Emery will remain with the athletic department, as Mitch Barnhart named him Special Assistant to the Athletics Director, a role that will involve fundraising.
Emery is the most successful coach in UK men's tennis history, and it's not even close. After his arrival in 1983, he led UK to two Southeastern Conference championships, 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and helped 19 Wildcat men to 38 All-America honors. For more on his announcement and achievements, check out our release here.
Eric Quigley finishes his Kentucky career as the winningest player in program history. (Bill Kallenberg, UK Athletics)
There are realistic goals that are reached through effort. Then there are dreams that are only attainable by motivated, tirelessly working people who never stop trying to make those dreams a reality.
A young man out of Pewee Valley, Ky., realized one of his dreams this week.
Senior Eric Quigley became just the third University of Kentucky men's tennis player to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship Final on Monday. He fell to Southern California's Steve Johnson, the nation's No. 1 player, in the title match, 6-4, 6-4.
Upon returning to the Bluegrass, Quigley set off for home to rest and reflect on his tournament run, his career and everything along the path over his time at UK. And though he lost his final match, he's still proud of what he was able to accomplish over the last few weeks.
"Obviously I wanted to win that last match," said Quigley, "but looking back at it all, it was awesome making it that far. I think I did a good job of taking it one match at a time. I think that really helped."
In the past, that was a problem for Quigley. With his eyes set on larger goals in the distance, he would trip up on the smaller steps along the way. The "one match at a time" mantra that has been ingrained in each and every UK tennis player is something that head coach Dennis Emery has been preaching all season long to his team.
Quigley obviously got the message. And he's quick to attribute his success to a man that he calls the best in the business.
"Coach Emery, I mean, enough said about him," said Quigley "He's one of the greatest coaches in all of college tennis. He's helped me so much, day in and day out, over the past four years, and they're a real big key to my success looking back. Over my four years, I've improved in every area of tennis, and it's all due to (the coaches)."
The "one match at a time" philosophy is a tried and true in the world of athletics. The teams and athletes that stick to it are usually the ones with the most success at the end of the day. And Quigley has had his share of success.
He finishes his career with an impressive 172-47 record, including a record mark of 54-8 his senior season. His 172 career victories are 27 more than the next player in school history. He became the SEC Player of the Year on his way to a perfect 11-0 record in No. 1 singles in conference play. He's a five-time All-American, including three singles and two doubles honors. Quigley is just one of two players ever to compete in two collegiate grand slam finals. And he received the ITA Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award this season, which honors sportsmanship and on-court accomplishments.
At a point, those dreams and accomplishments seemed out of the realm of possibility. Arriving at Kentucky, he was just looking for an opportunity to compete.
"Coming into school, I was just happy to play," Quigley said. "I definitely didn't have these goals in mind, and these great achievements that I set. I had no idea. But I was just hoping to improve and help the program become better. I hope that in my four years, and my team, we were able to help make this an even better program and I just hope they continue to win championships and put themselves in a position to win a national title."
But eventually, Quigley realized he had something special. And it didn't take long.
"One of the key moments for me was my sophomore year, in the fall, I beat the number one guy in the country," Quigley said. "I played a great match. And that was a big moment for me. I kind of followed it up with another great win after that, and it told me that it wasn't just a fluke."
In fact, Quigley has been anything but a fluke, as he's continued to prove the legitimacy of his talents to his opponents.
Now Quigley will look forward to beating fellow professionals on the tour circuit as he begins his career post-UK. Though he has cemented himself as the greatest tennis player ever to wear the Blue and White, the dream to play professionally was one of the reasons he chose to play at Kentucky. By playing for Emery and his staff, he knew that he would have a chance to improve his game and take it to the next level.
Training begins just three days removed from his last collegiate match for that next level. He says he'll be back on the court Thursday and by the middle of next week, he will be off for California to begin training at the USG Training Center to prepare for "Futures" and "Challengers."
In fact, before his collegiate career was even finished, he accumulated some ATP points last summer, which will help him qualify for some professional tournaments in the near future. Quigley was also named to the United States Tennis Association collegiate team, which will help him earn wild cards that will help him enter into tournaments.
But there's no timetable for Quigley. He has no set number of matches he hopes to win this summer. He mentioned that some players take longer than others to make it to where he hopes to go. All he hopes to do is to improve and polish his game that he knows is good, but far from perfect.
"I try not to set a number," said Quigley. "I just want to keep improving right now, because I think that's the biggest thing I've got to work on, my serve and just improving my game."
But as he works towards his individual professional career, Quigley is quick to point out that the thing he will miss most is the team mentality and the camaraderie he's built with his teammates along the way. And even though he will no longer be on the team, it's going to be tough to keep him away from it.
"I'm going to miss all the guys on the team, and fighting for each other, working out together, and pushing each other to get better," said Quigley. "That's one of the many things I'm going to miss from Kentucky. I'm hoping I can come back in the fall and the spring the next couple years to practice and continue to learn from Coach Kauffmann and Coach Emery."
Perhaps that affection for his teammates and coaches is why he was so disappointed by their finish this season in the NCAA Tournament.
After reaching the Elite Eight last season, Kentucky, who returned quite a bit of talent including Quigley, had its sights set on loftier goals. Emery had talked all season about the possibility of this team reaching a Final Four and potentially a national championship. He felt as if he had the most athletic team in the nation, and he probably was not far off on that assessment.
Kentucky was selected to host a regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and they breezed past both Radford and Indiana on their way to the Sweet 16 in Athens, Ga., with their eyes on a Final Four appearance. It was not to be, however, as No. 11 Stanford caught the No. 6 Wildcats at the right time, leaving Kentucky a round short of another Elite Eight appearance.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Quigley, who badly wanted to make a deep run in the tournament for he and his teammates.
"It was real tough," said Quigley. "Especially the year before when we had made the Elite Eight, and had a tough loss, and we thought we kind of had a chance there against USC even though they were a great team. But we really wanted to come back and improve on that good year that we had last year."
Luckily for Quigley, he had two shots at redemption for his team. He still had the singles and doubles tournament waiting in the wings. The Sweet 16 loss to Stanford was all the motivation he needed.
"I think one of the reasons I was able to do so well at individuals last week was because I had such a sour taste in my mouth after the team event," Quigley said. "I wanted to bounce back and do it for the team. I didn't want to have a disappointing end to my career, I wanted to go out on a good note, and I was definitely able to do that."
Quigley rode that wave of emotion and turned it into momentum that didn't stop until he reached his goal, his dream.
He was faced with a tough task in the Final. Defending singles champion Steve Johnson from USC was all that stood in the way of a championship run for Quigley. However, Johnson was in a midst of a 71-match winning streak, and he would not be denied a second national championship. But the loss, although disappointing, did not ruin the experience and journey to the place that he had worked so hard to reach.
"It was kind of surreal," Quigley said. "I've been thinking about that since I was in high school when I was a little kid, making it to a Finals and the NCAAs. And for it to actually happen is like a dream come true.
"You know I was definitely happy to be there. I was happy making the Finals, but I wanted to bring home the title. But (USC's) Steve Johnson's quite an accomplished player, it's definitely not a bad loss by any means. It was a great run, and looking back, it was awesome."
It was awesome, and he Quigley has been awesome for the Kentucky tennis program and for his University. And for a Kentucky kid to reach his dreams and represent the University of Kentucky in the fashion that he has over the past four years, that is as awesome as it gets.
Baseball - The Kentucky baseball team has been selected for its seventh all-time NCAA Tournament, traveling to the Gary, Ind., regional as the No. 2 seed, hosted by No. 1 seed Purdue. UK will face off with No. 3 seed and 25th-ranked Kent State in the opener on Friday, with No. 4 seeded Valparaiso taking on Purdue. - The Wildcats have had the best season in the history of the program, winning the second-most games in school annals and finishing third overall in the Southeastern Conference. UK led the SEC in eight of 10 weeks and was just one win shy of winning the second league regular season title in UK history. UK is just one win shy of equaling the school record for wins, owning a 13-9 record against top-25 teams, a 10-5 mark against top-10 foes and setting a school record by winning seven of its 10 SEC weekends. Last week, UK advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, the highest UK finish in the modern-era history of the league tournament (1998-present). - UK owns a 5-0 all-time record against Kent State, a 5-1 all-time mark against Purdue and have never played Valpo in school history. Overall against the field, UK owns a 14-13 mark against teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. UK ended the year with a No. 14 RPI. - Kentucky will be making its seventh all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, owning a 10-12 overall record. UK's last appearance in the NCAA Tournament came in 2008, when the Wildcats tied the best finish in school history with a regional runner-up finish. Men's tennis - Eric Quigley's historic four-year career as a member of the University of Kentucky men's tennis team came to an end Monday in the NCAA Singles Final as he fell in a tight battle to No. 1 Steve Johnson of Southern California at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. Johnson, who won the NCAA Singles title last season as well, earned late breaks in both the first and second sets to defeat the UK star 6-4, 6-4. - The impressive tournament run by Quigley put him in exclusive company, becoming only the third player in school history to play in the NCAA Singles Final. The UK star joins fellow All-Americans Jesse Witten and Carlos Drada as the only players to advance to the finals of the singles event. - Quigley had to defeat some of the best players in the nation to advance to the singles final, taking down five ranked players, including four that are ranked in the top 20 in the nation. The run to the finals began with a 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 41 Andre Dome of Cal Poly in the first round before Quigley defeated No. 18 Andreas Mies of Auburn 7-6 (4), 6-3 to advance to the round of 16. Quigley's Sweet 16 win came in thrilling action, taking down No. 13 Artem Ilyushin of Mississippi State 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) before he earned a 6-4, 6-3 win over Henrique Cunha of Duke in the quarterfinals. Quigley faced No. 9 Blaz Rola of Ohio State in the semifinal Sunday, using a come-from-behind effort to grab the win 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1). - The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., ends his senior season with a 54-8 record, which is the most wins in a single season in school history. The impressive mark this year took Quigley's career total to 172-47, which is the most wins in school history by a large amount, shattering the previous record by 27 wins.
Track and field - Raymond Dykstra, Andrew Evans and Luis Orta will represent Kentucky track and field this year at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 6-9. The trio each earned qualified marks/times at the NCAA East Preliminary Round last weekend. - Dykstra, a freshman, earned a spot in the NCAA Outdoor National Championships with an eighth-place finish in the men's javelin, throwing 222-09/67.91m at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday. - Evans qualified for the national championships with a mark of 182-07-55.67m in the discus. Like Dykstra, Evans also finished eighth at the east prelims on Thursday. - On Friday, Orta became the third Wildcat to qualify for the national championships, running a career-best time of 8:44.25 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Orta's time was the second-fastest 3,000m steeplechase in Kentucky history.
Friday, June 1 Baseball vs. Kent State - 4:00 p.m. (Gary, Ind.) Saturday, June 2 Baseball vs. Purdue/Valparaiso (Gary, Ind.)
Sunday, June 3 Baseball vs. TBA (Gary, Ind.) Wednesday, June 6 Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)
Thursday, June 7 Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)
Friday, June 8 Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)
Saturday, June 9 Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)
On Monday, Eric Quigley went toe-to-toe with the nation's top-ranked player before falling 6-4, 6-4 to Steve Johnson of Southern Cal. Quigley ends his career as the most decorated player in school history, with his runner-up finish in the NCAA Singles Championship serving as a final addition to his long list of accomplishments.
In the video below, you can view highlights of the match and listen as Quigley talks about the match and his Kentucky career. Congratulations and thanks go to Eric for a memorable four years:
We're ticking down to the end of the 2011-12 UK Athletics season, but that's not stopping Memorial Day from being a busy one for the Big Blue Nation. Here are a few notes to help you keep up:
Eric Quigley wanted to help carry men's tennis to a team national championship, but the Wildcats fell in the Sweet 16. Instead, he's going for the next best thing. At noon on Monday, UK's all-time winningest player will take on top-ranked Steve Johnson of Southern Cal with the singles national championship on the line. Quigley has done just about everything a college tennis player can in his four years at Kentucky, but his resume lacks a national title. NCAA.com will be live streaming Quigley's final collegiate match here.
Speaking of Quigley, Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal on his bid to become UK's first men's tennis national champion. Check it out.
The baseball team received the disappointing - and surprising - news on Sunday that Cliff Hagan Stadium would not be playing host to an NCAA regional. Nonetheless, the Wildcats will have a chance to prove themselves in the NCAA Tournament and they will learn where they'll path will start and what it will look like in the Selection Show at noon on ESPNU.
He will face off against top-ranked Steven Johnson of Southern Cal in the finals and will look to end Johnson's 71-match winning streak. Stay tuned for coverage tomorrow, but in the mean time, here are video highlights of Quigley's semfinal win.