Thursday is going to be a busy one here at the Joe Craft Center.
Beginning at noon, UK Athletics will host a press conference quadruple header ahead of the fall sports season. It will start with Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart introducing new track and field and cross country coach. Next, women's soccer coach Jon Lipsitz and midfielder Alyssa Telang will take their turn previewing the season. Volleyball's Craig Skinner and Stephanie Klefot will follow and Johan Cedergren and Cameron Wilder from men's soccer will close it out.
Each of the press conferences is expected to last 15 minutes and you can watch them all live on UKathletics.com. Throughout Thursday and Friday, Ryan Suckow and I will have stories from the event in addition to our regular football coverage.
There's no getting around it now. The season is upon us.
It's a story I'm sure you've heard before, but also one you won't mind hearing again. Josh Nadzam and Luis Orta from the Kentucky track and field and cross country teams have led shoe collections for Soles4Souls each of the past two springs. Kyle Scott from WLEX had a segment on Sunday's news about it.
Five individuals with UK ties will compete or coach in the Olympics over the next two weeks.
On Friday, the Opening Ceremonies officially kicked off the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. After competition on Saturday and Sunday, medals have already been awarded in various events with China and the United States tied at 14 and 13 medals, respectively, as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday according to NBCOlympics.com.
While Cat Scratches won't be providing in-depth coverage of the Olympics, we figured now would be a good time to provide an update on current and former Kentucky student-athletes participating and when they will be in action over the next two weeks.
Anthony Davis - Basketball - Team USA
Davis is the lone Wildcat to have competed so far. Team USA faced off against France in its first game of play in Group A on Sunday, pulling away for a 98-71 win after leading by just one through the first quarter. Davis played only in the fourth quarter, logging three points, three rebounds and a block in eight minutes on the floor.
Named to Team USA as a replacement for the injured Blake Griffin, Davis isn't playing a featured role, but he's getting some incredible experience. The reigning national player of the year got some face time and a mention during the Opening Ceremonies and has gained the respect of his teammates, according to the broadcast of Sunday's game. As the tournament wears on, don't expect Davis to get much more than mop-up duty, but with how good the Americans are, there could be plenty of that available.
Tuesday, July 31 - Team USA vs. Tunisia - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play) Thursday, Aug. 2 - Team USA vs. Nigeria - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play) Saturday, Aug. 4 - Team USA vs. Lithuania - 9:30 a.m. ET (Group play) Monday, Aug. 6 - Team USA vs. Argentina - 5:15 p.m. ET (Group play)
If Team USA advances, it will play in a quarterfinal on Aug. 8 with the medal rounds on Aug. 10 and Aug. 12. Jenna Martin - Track and field - Canada
Martin earned a spot on the Canadian National Team with a time of 51.53 seconds in the 400-meter dash. She is the all-time UK record holder in the event, with her top time coming in 2007.
Friday, Aug. 3 - Women's 400m Round 1 - 7 a.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 4 - Women's 400m Semifinals - 3:05 p.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 5 - Women's 400m Final - 4:10 p.m. ET
Rondel Sorrillo - Track and field - Trinidad and Tobago
Sorrillo is an Olympian for the second time. He will compete in both the 100m and 200m, as he set the UK record in both events in 2010. Sorrillo will also run in the 4x100m relay.
Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's 100m Preliminaries - 5 a.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's 100m Round 1 - 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's 100m Semifinals - 2:45 p.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's 100m Final - 4:50 p.m. ET Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's 200m Round 1 - 6:50 p.m. ET Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 200m Semifinals - 3:10 p.m. ET Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's 200m Final - 3:55 p.m. ET Friday, Aug 10 - Men's 4x100m Relay Round 1 - 2:45 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 11 - Men's 4x100m Relay Final - 4 p.m. ET
Mikel Thomas - Track and field - Trinidad and Tobago
Thomas will race in the 110m hurdles. He holds the UK record in the event, running a time of 13.57 seconds in 2008.
Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's 110m Hurdles Round 1 - 5:10 a.m. ET Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 110m Hurdles Semifinals - 2:15 p.m. ET Wednesday, Aug. 8 - Men's 110m Hurdles Final - 4:15 p.m. ET
Edrick Floreal - Track and field (coach) - Team USA
Floreal's busy summer continues. In the midst of transitioning into his new role leading UK track and field and cross country, he will coach jumps and combined events for Team USA. Floreal was an Olympian himself in 1988 and 1992.
Friday, Aug. 3 - Men's Long Jump Qualification - 2:50 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 4 - Men's Long Jump Finals - 2:55 p.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 5 - Men's High Jump Qualification - 2:05 p.m. ET Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's Triple Jump Qualification - 5:45 a.m. ET Tuesday, Aug. 7 - Men's High Jump Finals - 2 p.m. ET Wednesday, Aug. 8 and Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's Decathlon Thursday, Aug. 9 - Men's Triple Jump Finals - 2:20 p.m. ET
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