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.
Anytime a head coach takes over a program, there's a great deal of work involved. For new Kentucky track and field coach Edrick Floreal, the transition will be even more significant.
Floreal is balancing tying up loose ends at his former job at Stanford, moving his family to the Bluegrass and serving as jumps coach for Team USA at the Summer Olympic Games. And don't forget about getting to know his Wildcat student-athletes. Mark Maloney writes about that subject and others in a story in Thursday's Lexington Herald-Leader:
Under his watch, 91 Stanford athletes earned 197 All-America honors. The Cardinal won three NCAA women's cross country titles and finished among the top-five men's cross country programs in three of the last four years. Add to that seven NCAA track and field finishes indoors, as well as outdoors.
UK is coming off a seventh-place men's finish and 12th-place women's finish in the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships.
"I have to have (UK athletes) buy in, and buying in means 'wherever we're at right now, we need to do better,'" Floreal said. "Can we do three or four spots better? I certainly hope so, and I certainly think so. But it might be two spots better; it might be six spots better.
"I don't know right now, and I just don't want the kids to get discouraged. ... Like my former A.D. (at Stanford), Bob Bowlsby, said, 'you've got to eat the elephant one bite at a time.' I'm not interested in trying to eat the whole thing together, so we're going to keep biting at that until we eat the whole thing."
That challenge to build UK's program and take advantage of a new outdoor facility are part of what lured him from Stanford, Floreal said. He cited the support of his UK predecessor -- Don Weber -- and the passion of Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart as factors.
The SEC Digital Network is continuing its "40/40" series, which is a celebration of women in Southeastern Conference athletics since the passing of Title IX 40 years ago. Former Kentucky stars Jenny Hansen (gymnastics) and Valerie McGovern (track and field/cross country) have already been featured as a part of the series, but Tuesday was Valerie Still's turn.
Still is the all-time leading scorer in UK basketball history - men's and women's - and was the leader on the school's SEC title team in 1982. Written by Tim Letcher, this story gives some interesting perspective on Still's time as a Wildcat:
Still didn't know exactly what she was getting into when she arrived in Lexington. "I didn't even know about Kentucky basketball, men or women," she says. "All we knew was that they had a pretty good football team at the time, because Art was on it. We thought it was a football school," she says with a chuckle.
In the fall of 1979, Still embarked on what would be a record-breaking career. She led Kentucky in scoring all four years of her career. When she scored her 1,599th point as a junior, she passed Pam Browning to become the leading scorer in Kentucky women's basketball history.
"Pam was in that first group when they brought the program back (in 1974), and she was just inducted into the UK Hall of Fame this September," Still says. "When I came in, you knew Pam Browning if you knew women's basketball. She was a pretty special athlete."
"Passing Pam was pretty significant for me," Still says. "When I came to UK, one of the things I liked doing was, I'd take a look at the media guides and I'd look in the back and see who had the records, and she (Browning) had all of the records. And I thought it would be kind of nice if I could get my name in there."
Not only did Still get her name in the record books, she shattered nearly all of the women's basketball records at Kentucky. In addition to points and rebounds in a career, she holds school records for points in a game (42), rebounds in a game (27), field goals made in a career (1,118) and free throws made in a career (527), just to mention a few.
As she started to place her names among the greatest women's basketball players in Kentucky history, Still accomplished something that most people probably didn't expect.
In a game against Miami (Ohio) on December 5, 1982, Still scored her 2,139th career point, passing Issel as Kentucky's all-time scoring leader, man or woman.
When asked what she remembered about the moment, Still says, "Not a lot. I think when you're young and doing things, I was sort of limited in my knowledge. I was just doing something that I loved doing, and something incredible happened."
The story goes on to talk about life after UK for Still, touching on her professional career and now her career as an author. Take a look.
Edrick Floreal was named head coach of Kentucky track and field on Monday.
Bit by bit, Kentucky is turning into the kind of head coaching destination Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart envisioned it could be a decade ago.
On Monday, UK announced the hiring of Edrick Floreal as head coach of UK track and field. Floreal comes to Lexington after six years leading Stanford's program, the kind of job that would have caused a coach to consider leaving UK in the not-so-distant past.
Instead, recognizing the vast potential of the Kentucky program and the lure of coaching in the Southeastern Conference, Floreal is a Wildcat once more.
"I am very excited to return to Kentucky and guide this program into a new era of success," Floreal said in a release. "I am certain that with the support of the administration and the Wildcat community, we can accomplish great things. The new outdoor track and field facility provides the perfect venue to accomplish the many goals I have for UK. My wife and I are looking forward to being back in the SEC, competing against the best in track and field and taking part in the new rise of champions at Kentucky. The potential is limitless and I am excited to join the Big Blue Nation as part of the Wildcat Family."
After winning five NCAA triple jump titles and four team championships as a student-athlete at Arkansas and competing for Canada at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, Floreal spent 1996-98 as an assistant under Don Weber at Kentucky. He would then depart for Palo Alto, Calif., where he spent 14 seasons and the last six as head coach. During his tenure, 50 of his student-athletes earned 142 All-American honors. In 2011, he led the Cardinal men (eighth) and women (14th) to top-15 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
"We are proud to announce Edrick Floreal as the new Kentucky track and field head coach," Barnhart said. "Edrick has found success in every step of his career, both on the track and in the classroom. He knows the SEC both as a student-athlete and as a coach, he has ties that span the country and he has developed student-athletes to compete on the national level and global level. His passion in the classroom is something we take great pride in at Kentucky, and we look forward to opening our new outdoor track and field facility under Edrick's direction."
This week, the SEC Digital Network has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX with "40/40," a celebration of women's athletics in the Southeastern Conference designed to bring awareness to Title IX.
Already, a pair of former University of Kentucky greats have been profiled. First was gymnast Jenny Hansen, the NCAA's first-even three-time All-Around national champion. The piece by Tim Letcher tells of Hansen's journey from her home in Wisconsin to champion to her ongoing comeback. Here's an excerpt about her surprise NCAA title as a freshman:
Despite the fact that she was recruited by powerhouse programs like Alabama, Florida and LSU, Hansen was not expected to be a major factor as a freshman. However, she quickly established herself as one of the top gymnasts in the country, competing in the always-tough SEC.
"I did really well my first year, it was really fun," Hansen says. "It was like a progression. I was learning new skills, I had new friends. I was continually having fun, therefore I continually won."
In fact, Hansen made it all the way to the NCAA meet in Corvallis, Ore. as a freshman. Once she got there, she faced some stiff competition.
"It was so unreal to me, because of the people I was competing against," Hansen says. "There was Dee Dee Foster (from Alabama, the 1990 NCAA All-Around champion), Hope Spivey (1991 NCAA All-Around champion from Georgia), Dana Dobrasky (another Alabama All-American), all of these girls were so big in college gymnastics at the time, and I was competing against them."
Not only did Hansen compete against them, she beat them all, claiming the 1993 NCAA All-Around championship as a freshman.
McGovern starred as a runner at UK a few years before Hansen arrived, and her journey to Lexington was quite unique. A native of Ireland, she transferred to Kentucky after the women's cross country program at Austin Peay was disbanded. Mark Maloney has the story:
McGovern had a few partial scholarship offers to transfer, but an Austin Peay teammate suggested she check out Kentucky. The Wildcats had a very good and young group of female distance runners.
She spoke with UK assistant coach Gene Weis, but didn't get a scholarship offer until she was home in Ireland.
For a second time, in 1988, she committed to a college that she had never visited: Kentucky.
McGovern -- now Dr. Valerie McGovern Young and living in Novato, Calif., a bit north of San Francisco -- would go on to become one of UK's and the Southeastern Conference's distance-running legends.
Right off the bat, she helped the Wildcats win the 1988 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
She would win three NCAA individual titles at 5,000 meters, earning All-America honors eight times in cross country and track. She won eight SEC titles and still holds five school records.
For recently retired UK head coach Don Weber, McGovern remains one of his all-time favorites.
When her head coach at UK, Don Weber, retired earlier this month, he couldn't help but mention two of the stars on the 1988 national championship team.
"You've got people like Lisa Breiding and Valerie McGovern, who were the sweetest, nicest people you'd ever run across," he said. "I remember, it kind of bothered me in athletics, and I don't see it as much anymore, but all the chest-thumping, macho stuff. Being a great competitor is much more about brain power than it is brawn.
"And seeing some of the sweetest, nicest young women being the most competitive, daring -- it was inspiring to watch. ... That's the best thing about coaching."
Weber tells Maloney that he considered the possibility of stepping down throughout the season before informing Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart of his ultimate decision last month. In spite of some of the unknowns that come out of his retirement, Weber said he is "dead-certain that this is the right thing to do for Kentucky track."
That doesn't mean saying goodbye will be easy for Weber or the student-athletes with whom he worked so closely:
Josh Nadzam, who came to UK as a walk-on and developed into a Southeastern Conference point-scorer in the mile, dropped by Tuesday to see Weber in the field house.
"Thanking him for the opportunity that he gave me and just how great of a mentor he's been to me," Nadzam said. "Helping me develop as an athlete but, most importantly, as a man. Just helping with so many different facets in my life that expanded, way more than just track and field and running."
Weber said he is fearful of what September -- cross country season -- will feel like without coaching duties.
He said he'll miss "watching people really work at exploring their possibilities; getting better."
In the end, Weber is sure of the decision he made:
His vacancy should attract many job applicants.
In addition to an upgraded Shively Sports Center and a premier indoor facility in Nutter, a new outdoor track is near completion. Stands, lights, press box and storage facilities are in place, as is the asphalt oval. The major task left is to pour the Beynon synthetic surface, expected to take place in mid-July.
As much as he would like to have had the new outdoor facility at his service, he said this is the right time for a change.
"I kind of see this as just passing the baton. I've carried the baton for a long, long time here," he said. " ... There are some significant possibilities here. And it just seemed like, where I was and the stage of my career, where the university is and where the athletics department is in terms of all the resources we have for track, now was the time to do it."
On Tuesday, Don Weber announced his retirement after 28 years as head coach of UK track and field and cross country. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For 34 years, Don Weber has been an institution at the University of Kentucky. After running track and cross country at UK and gaining experience elsewhere, he returned to Lexington in 1978 as an assistant. Six years later, he became the head track and field and cross country coach.
On Tuesday, Weber announced his retirement. Over his 28-year tenure, Weber's athletes earned 10 individual NCAA championships, 225 All-America honors, 92 Southeastern Conference individual titles and one NCAA team championship in women's cross country.
"Thirty-four years, that's a long time, but looking back on it, it doesn't seem like a long time at all, something you love to do every day, so it was never a job," Weber said. "Coaching track at the University of Kentucky, there wasn't much longevity to it, prior to me. I didn't think too much about it (in 1978). I was pretty much in the present. I just wanted to coach here, I'd been given the opportunity and I was 100 percent content with that."
Weber spent his last 10 years under the leadership of Mitch Barnhart. The Athletics Director credited Weber for where the program is today and where it will go.
"Don Weber has served his University with nobility and great integrity," said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. "He has coached numerous All-Americans and national champions. He is a critical component, not only of the past, but also of the future of Kentucky track. He has been vital in the development of our facilities at the Nutter Field House, the Shively Sports Center and the new track which is nearing completion and will benefit our program for years to come. We thank him and wish the best for Don and his family in his retirement."
Weber plans to help the new UK coach transition into the job as well as open the new outdoor track.
"In my mind, I've equated this to passing the baton," Weber said. "I've run a lot of laps - 34 years - and now it's time to give it to a new person and let them run with it. However, it's with mixed emotions, with all these new facilities, the new Shively Sports Center, the new track. It's a very exciting time and I think a new coach can make hay out of that and enhance the program here pretty dramatically." Read the complete release on Weber's retirement here
Raymond Dykstra finished sixth in javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. (Josh McCoy, UK Athletics)
On Thursday, freshman track and field athlete Raymond Dykstra finished sixth overall in javelin at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He was close to his personal-best distance with a throw 74.4m, best among any freshman at the event.
"I actually wasn't going to do track and field," Dykstra said Thursday at Drake Stadium. "I got cut from the varsity soccer team when I was in grade nine and I said I wasn't going to do athletics. As I was sitting in one of my classes one day, the track coach came up to me and said that she had heard that, in past years, I had been on the relay team and I had done fairly well. She said, 'Would you like to come out to my relay team?' I said, 'Sure.'"
Dykstra enjoyed his time with the relay team, but during practices, another event kept catching his eye. Finally he asked if he could just try the event himself.
"It was late in the season, but in a couple of practices, I saw one fellow throwing the javelin," Dykstra said. "I asked my coach if I could go try the javelin and she said 'Sure, you can go try.'"
As it turns out, the javelin was meant to be for Dykstra.
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)
Baseball - After falling just a win shy of claiming the second Southeastern Conference Championship in program history on the final day of the regular season, Kentucky will kick off postseason play by opening the SEC Tournament on Tuesday as the fourth seed against the ninth-seeded Ole Miss Rebels, with first pitch set for 10:30 a.m. ET at Regions Park. - UK will be making its 14th all-time appearance in the SEC Tournament, owning a 16-28 overall record, with its fifth-place finish in 2000 and 2008 marking a program best. - UK completed its regular season with the most wins in a regular season in the history of the program, equaling the 41 from the school-record 44-win season in 2008. UK also tied the school record set in 2006 by winning seven of its 10 SEC series matchups in 2012. The Wildcats led the SEC in eight of 10 weeks and boasted home series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 1 LSU, and road series wins at Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia and No. 9 Arkansas.
Men's tennis - The sixth-ranked University of Kentucky men's tennis team won the doubles point, but could not continue its momentum in singles action, dropping a 4-1 decision to No. 11 Stanford in the NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament Round of 16. - The loss concludes Kentucky's season with an overall record of 28-6, the second-most wins in the history of the program. Last year's team set the school record for wins in a year with a 29-9 mark. UK ends the season with a .778 winning percentage, which is the third highest in the history of the program behind the 1988 and 1992 teams. - Kentucky ends the season with a 23-6 record against currently ranked teams. More specifically, UK was 11-6 against teams currently ranked in the top 25, including three wins over teams in the top 10. Since the start of the 2009 season, Kentucky has won an impressive total of 31 matches against top-25 foes.
Softball - The Wildcats made their fourth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Louisville, and dropped a heart-wrenching 3-2 walk-off loss to No. 22 Michigan in the opening round. UK then defeated Valpo in an elimination game by a 5-4 margin before falling to the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals 3-2 in the Saturday elimination game. - UK ends its season at 30-30, marking the fourth-straight season the Wildcats have posted a .500 or better record. It is the best run in school history. Sophomore Ginny Carroll led the offense with a .444 average in the tournament, which included a double and pair of runs scored. Freshman Griffin Joiner connected for a two-run homer in the Louisville contest for UK's lone long ball. - The 2012 senior class comprised of Macy Allen, Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes, Ashleigh Gustafson, Rachel Riley and Erika Silence are credited with changing the culture of UK softball forever. The six-member class is the lone group of letter-winners to appear in postseason action in each season of its careers. They own the school-record for most wins in a career (136). Bell and Riley rank among the top-five in every pitching category in school history. Cervantes steps away as one of UK's most prolific offensive performers owning school records for homers and RBI. Track and field - Four Wildcats were named to the Track & Field All-SEC teams. Andrew Evans was a first-team selection in the discus, Raymond Dykstra and Luis Orta were second-team selections in the javelin and 3,000m steeplechase, respectively, and Keilah Tyson was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in the 100m and 200m. Dykstra was also named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in the javelin. - Thirteen Kentucky student-athletes have qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary, which takes place from May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. Representing Kentucky will be Terence Boyd (long jump, triple jump), Raymond Dykstra (javelin), Andrew Evans (discus), Terri-Ann Grant (high jump), Isiah Kent (discus), Josh Nadzam (1,500m), Luis Orta (3,000m steeplechase), Kayla Parker (100m hurdles), Allison Peare (800m), Jennifer Svoboda (shot put), Keilah Tyson (100m, 200m), and the 4x100m relay team, which will consist of Tamyah Pipkin, Tyson, Julie Nunn and Parker.
Tuesday, May 22 Baseball vs. Ole Miss - 9:30 a.m. (Hoover, Ala.) Wednesday, May 23 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Baseball vs. LSU/Arkansas/Mississippi State (Hoover, Ala.)
Thursday, May 24 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Friday, May 25 Baseball vs. TBA (Hoover, Ala.) Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Saturday, May 26 Baseball vs. TBA (Hoover, Ala.) Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sunday, May 27 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.)
Monday, May, 28 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.)