COLUMN: Pre-bowl announcements a distraction



There is no place like Birmingham in winter; at least that’s what I’ll tell myself until I’m out of there. But while I work to keep my morale up in the lagging weeks between the regular season and postseason play, the UK football program’s spirits have potential to slip.

If one thing is certain in football, it is that teams can be easily distracted by drama, and UK and its players could put on their own rendition of “Hamlet” with the drama the program has stirred up recently.

News like transferring players (or players contemplating the NFL) and coaches who will pack up come season’s end may be detrimental to the team’s focus, and thus, its performance in January, a month which houses a game that has potential to salvage the Cats’ lackluster year. They have only been making it tougher on themselves to stay in the right set of mind before their matchup with Pittsburgh.

Typically, that’s what the offseason is for.

Even if little information was released on the discharge of running backs coach Larry Brinson and secondary coach Chris Thurmond, UK can’t help but keep those voided positions in the back of its mind. In a time of “win-now-or-you’re-fired” sports, UK head coach Joker Phillips must already be feeling the heat of a losing record, despite what the program says.

Though rumors have surfaced regarding UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown’s intentions to leave UK for the NFL (seems a little lofty after this season, Steve), the team has also assigned a co-defensive coordinator to assist Brown’s below average Southeastern Conference defense.

Fans shouldn’t mind the sudden adjustments, though. This season’s criticism constantly surrounding UK’s dreary defensive efforts finally gave way to some action by Phillips, a move many fans have been begging for since about the fifth week of play. Again, perhaps it was a move made in the “hot seat,” but a move nonetheless. It is surprising Brown will even still be on the sidelines at Commonwealth Stadium next season after the fans distaste for him following this year.

Also, the news of sophomore running back Donald Russell transferring and freshman defensive tackle Elliot Porter considering other schools nearer to his hometown only stir up more commotion. Though certain player progressions must be dealt with on a strict timetable, those individuals must realize their teammates notice even the slightest restlessness and it carries over into practice/gameplay.

While the importance of gameplanning for upcoming seasons can never begin too early, it’s true some parts can. The announcements of these big-time moves are some of those instances. Getting a leg up on UK’s opponents isn’t worth going to the extent of harming the team’s chances of focusing its effort on its upcoming Big East foe.

These changes, which seem more important than credited, give off too much of an offseason feel while the team is still in season and should be preparing for its final outing.

But the Cats aren’t the only ones out of luck. With the recent resignation of head football coach Dave Wannstedt, Pittsburgh is facing disruptions of its own.

So, at least Birmingham should be fair this time of year.