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Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart named Sports Business Journal’s AD of the Year

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Business is good at the University of Kentucky. So good, in fact, the Wildcats are being recognized for their strong work on and off the field.

Sports Business Journal is one of the industry’s leading publications on the aptly titled subject and handed out some of their end of the year honors on Wednesday. One of the big winners was UK’s Mitch Barnhart, who took home the prestigious athletic director of the year for his work in collegiate athletics in 2018.

“I am honored and thankful to represent the University of Kentucky in receiving this award,” Barnhart said in a release. “It’s truly a testament to the incredible work our student-athletes, coaches and staff have done to build a program to make the Big Blue Nation and the Commonwealth proud. I also want to say a special thank you to my wife, Connie, and my entire family for taking this journey with me. We have much work ahead of us though, and we can’t wait to do it.”

Barnhart was hired back in 2002 from Oregon State and is the SEC’s longest-serving AD. Perhaps even more notable than the length of his tenure in Lexington is who he’s groomed to move on into other athletics director chairs, including three of his peers in the conference in Greg Byrne of Alabama, Scott Stricklin at Florida and John Cohen at Mississippi State. Minnesota’s Mark Coyle and College Football Playoff Selection Committee Chairman and Oregon AD Rob Mullens have also worked under Barnhart at UK.

While the award from SBJ  is an all-encompassing one, it goes without saying that the Wildcats’ success on the football field had to be a big factor in him winning the award. Kentucky went 10-3 in 2018 under Mark Stoops, reaching double-digit wins for the first time in nearly four decades.

Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard among semifinalists for Doak Walker Award

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Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is attempting to do something that has only been done twice before by winning the Doak Walker Award in back-to-back seasons. Taylor was one of the 10 semifinalists revealed by the Doak Walker Award on Thursday, putting last year’s top running back one step closer to pulling off the rare feat on the college football award circuit.

Taylor will have some stiff competition for the award this season. Among the other semifinalists for the award include Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, the nation’s rushing leader with 1,726 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns (Taylor has 1,463 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in the same number of games as Hubbard).

Darren McFadden of Arkansas is the most recent player to win the Doak  Walker Award in back-to-back seasons, doing so in 2006 and 2007. The only other player to win the award in consecutive seasons, and the only other two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award, is Ricky Williams of Texas. Williams won the award in 1997 and 1998. Taylor joined former Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon (2014), Montee Ball (2012) and Ron Dayne (1999) to move Wisconsin into first place for most all-time Doak Walker Award winners. Texas also has four awards won, but by three players (Ricky Williams twice, Cedric Benson in 2004 and D’Onta Foreman in 2016).

The other semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Award this year include LeVante Bellamy of Western Michigan (21 touchdowns leads the nation), AJ Dillon of Boston College, JK Dobbins of Ohio State, Clyde Edwards-Helaire of LSU, Travis Etienne of Clemson, Kenneth Gainwell of Memphis, Xavier Jones of SMU, Zack Moss of Utah.

Boise State’s second-leading rusher arrested for failure to appear

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Were it not for its demise, it’d once again be time for the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker to shine.

The latest college football player with an off-field dustup is Boise State’s Robert Mahone, with KTIK‘s Mike Prater reporting that the running back was arrested earlier this week for misdemeanor failure to appear.  The arrest stemmed from a speeding ticket that went unpaid.

That ticket has since been taken care of, and it’s not expected to impact Mahone’s availability for this weekend’s key Mountain West Conference matchup with Utah State.

A junior, Mahone is second on the Broncos with 411 yards rushing and is tied for the team lead with five rushing touchdowns.  He’s also caught seven passes for another 62 yards coming out of the backfield.

At a perfect 6-0, Boise State leads the MWC Mountain division by one game over USU (5-1) and Air Force (5-1).  Boise is ranked 20th in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, third behind No. 18 Memphis and No. 19 Cincinnati among Group of Five schools.

With Ralphie V’s retirement, PETA calls on Colorado to end live mascot program

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They’re at it.  Again.

Earlier this month, Colorado announced that its live buffalo mascot since 2008, Ralphie V, will be retired after this weekend’s home finale Washington.  In that same announcement, the university confirmed that it is searching for a successor, which will make its debut in 2020.

If it’s up to the individuals at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, though, the live mascot program at CU will end with Ralphie V.

In a letter posted on its website and addressed to CU System President Mark Kennedy — and as they have done in the past when it comes to the likes of Texas (HERE), Georgia (HERE), LSU (HERE), Mississippi State (HERE), among others — PETA “respectfully request[ed] that you agree not to replace this individual with another animal but rather forgo their use from now on.”

From the letter, which you can read in full HERE:

Using live animals as mascots is often a recipe for disaster. For example, at this year’s Sugar Bowl, Bevo, the longhorn steer used by the University of Texas, broke out of an enclosure and charged the University of Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga, nearly trampling him. Then just last month, an Auburn University football player collided with Mississippi State University’s mascot, Bully. Mascots from falcons to big cats have sustained physical injuries because they were being used as living props.

Even if animals aren’t physically harmed, it’s hard to imagine that they enjoy being paraded before raucous crowds, entirely out of their element, and treated as if they were toys rather than living, feeling beings with interests, personalities, and needs of their own. Being forced into a stadium full of bright lights, exuberantly screaming fans, and loud noises is stressful—and can be terrifying—for animals who have no idea what’s going on or why.

Fortunately for those who appreciate the beloved tradition, Ralphie isn’t going anywhere, a university official has confirmed..

Alabama fan charged with murder of LSU fan after shooting during LSU-Alabama game

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Sadly, this has become a ghoulish tradition of late when it comes to the LSU-Alabama game.

Last year, an Alabama fan was fatally injured after a verbal altercation with two LSU fans during the annual SEC West clash turned physical.  This year, an LSU fan, 29-year-old James Michael Roland “Mikie” Merritt, was shot with a pistol by 31-year-old David Allen Fulkerson, an Alabama fan, during the game.  After spending nearly a week on life support, Merritt died last Friday after the family decided to pull the plug.

Fulkerson was originally charged with attempted murder; that charge has since been upgraded to murder.

“They just got into it over the ball game,” Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson said by way of the Baton Rouge Advocate. “They’d been jawing at each other all day. Alcohol played a big part in it.”

Williamson said that Fulkerson’s and Merritt’s girlfriends are sisters and that the fight broke out at Fulkerson’s residence in Littleville, Alabama. People had gathered there to watch the game in which LSU beat Alabama 46-41.

Court records obtained by AL.com say that Fulkerson, a 31-year-old from Tuscumbia, Alabama, was cheering for Alabama and Merritt was cheering for LSU. When Merritt called a football player an expletive, Fulkerson thought he had said it to him and grabbed his gun.

Fulkerson’s defense attorney has claimed that the shooting was in self-defense, evidenced by a black eye he suffered. However, one witness told authorities that she watched Fulkerson hit himself in the face.