How to fix this mess: No bull assessment

So, here we are again. <br><br> The football team is struggling to do anything right. The basketball team can't do anything wrong. The jobs of the athletic director and the football staff are being strongly evaluated, at least by fans. And the fans themselves also are getting a gut check.

If it seems as if we've been here before, you're right. We have. And just like it was back then, fans and administrators alike, are keeping their noses to the stars in hopes of an answer. Any answer.

I'm here to offer the story of the hippo as salvation.

If you don't know the story, no need to look it up. The moral is simple; love yourself for who you are. Don't try to be something you aren't.

What Kentucky needs is a reality check, much like the hippo that tried to be something it wasn't.

Kansas State didn't need one, but it offered a few helpful hints from which Kentucky fans can learn.

"It wasn't as hard for a school like us," said Jon Wefald, Kansas State's president. "We had nothing. No tradition, no history, no body of believers, no money to have good facilities. It took a lot of hard work, team effort and luck.

"But we had to take a long look in the mirror as to who we were and what we could become."

The bookish historian from Minnesota was much like UK's president, Lee Todd. Neither accepts mediocrity in anything and both understand the importance of a successful football program in a university's overall effort to grow and progress both in athletics and academics.

"I used to tell people, 'We're going to do everything we can to have a competitive football team. I'm an optimist, and I think we can do that,' " said Wefald. "And they'd say, 'He's new. He's from Minnesota, and he doesn't know what he's saying.' "

But Wefald did know of what he spoke, taking a much-maligned university and moving it to where it was meeting or exceeding expectations in almost every endeavor ... including football.

"They expect me to reach into my top drawer and pull out a sheet of paper with a blueprint," said Bill Snyder, KSU's head coach. "I'm flattered, but there's no piece of paper. We just got a little bit better every year for 10 years until - here we are."

Snyder's strength was understanding the people he was recruiting. He understood that as long as your team was successful, on paper, he could go into any house in America and develop a presentation for success.

"It seemed like every year someone was giving the man a hard time for scheduling easy opponents," said Trev Alberts, ESPN commentator. "All Snyder cared about was wins. You can't change wins on a piece of paper."

Alberts' analysis exposes the reality of recruiting.

"These kids don't watch 50 games a weekend," said an unnamed junior college coach. "Half the time, the only information they know about your school is what you say to them at their house or over the phone.

"These kids have better things to do. You think they became Division I athletes by sitting on the couch and watching football on Saturdays?

"If you're 3-0, but you've beaten the sisters of the poor, I would doubt that any recruit in America would even know or think anything of it."

And that's the reality of the typical college football recruit. Even former KSU quarterback Michael Bishop didn't know the Wildcats' history when he was recruited by Snyder and his staff.

"I knew they had a couple of nine-win seasons when I came here," Bishop said.

How soon they can forget. How soon they wanted to forget. Little did Bishop know that prior to his coach's arrival, State sported a 300-511-39 all-time record, and was the worst program in the country. Until then, the program had seen just 19 winning seasons.

"There weren't five people in the Western world in 1988 who thought we could do it," Wefald said. "I went to a Kansas City rotary club meeting. I mentioned all the usual things, fund-raising, enrollment. A former All-American basketball player for us, Rick Harmon, came up and said, 'Just don't mention football. It can't be done.' "

KSU's example is what Kentucky must follow if it wants to be successful in football.


Swallow your pride. Reassess the program and understand who and where you are.

Louisville did it. UofL faced competing against a state university with better facilities, one that plays in a traditionally stronger conference.

So what did UofL do? It swallowed its pride, reassessed the program and understood what needed to be done.

The Cards played on Tuesdays to get on ESPN. They scheduled teams from power conferences expanded their recruiting range to get better faster.

The result? Louisville is now a Top 15 team and its reputation has propelled the Cards into the Big East Conference, where they will finally be treated as an equal among the nation's championship suitors. It's the reverse of what Kansas State did, but more-or-less another example of someone who didn't try to be something they weren't.

"Here's what I would say to anyone" Wefald said. "If we can do what we've done, there isn't anything in the world anybody can't do. We have shown you can reach for the stars. You can accomplish the impossible."

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