Letters to the editor: Did Crafts’ booster power unduly influence Coach Cal’s departure?

Kentucky Wildcats Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, center, talks on the field with University of Kentucky donors Joe Craft, right, and his wife, Kelly Craft, left, before a football game against Akron at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Basketball and politics

John Calipari allegedly left Kentucky, in part, because Joe and Kelly Craft exerted too much influence over UK Athletics. Calipari allegedly refused to — and prohibited players — from endorsing Craft when she ran for Governor. The push for Calipari’s ouster allegedly began.

If you’ve ever been involved in Kentucky politics, you know how dirty it can get. Our politicians play the game better than anyone.

Was Cal’s decision to make Barnhart believe he was staying — only to walk away — his “middle finger” to the influence Kentucky politicians have on college sports?

The Hall of Fame Coach seemingly made it clear that his goal of protecting his players won’t be sidelined by anyone, for any reason. In a reflective and somber tone, he reminded us that everything he did in the Commonwealth was for the benefit of his players. If it didn’t benefit his players—- he didn’t do it.

What I saw in Arkansas was a leader, refusing to bow down to the elite, sending a clear message — “My Players Can Follow Me Anywhere — Watch Us Now!”

William E. Woods, Florence

Basketball program

Born in Lexington, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (1967), I remember listening on the radio to the 1958 NCAA semi-final with the Temple Owls in a darkened living room with my parents. The tension was palpable. The thrill of that game sealed my love of Kentucky basketball. On Sunday nights, during basketball season, we would watch then UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp on television. He would often mention Harry Lancaster, his trusted assistant coach. I can’t think of Rupp without thinking of Harry Lancaster. One of the Lexington Herald-Leader’s sports writers wrote that Kentucky basketball is bigger than any individual coach.

Yes. Yes, it is.

Judy Whiteley Slack, Placitas, N.M.

Thoughts on Calipari

UK basketball Coach John Calipari has stepped down. UK athletics officials are doing their best to select a basketball head coach “who embraces the importance of the program to the fans and the state of Kentucky.” This is too simple. The Big Blue Nation’s basketball ecosystem is more than UK officials, coaches, fans and the Commonwealth.

Monetary rewards for cream of the crop athletes and the policy of “one and done “also are part of it. Among the public and fans, however, there is a loud expression of disapproval of these components. It stems from a view that UK’s basketball program has converted into a minor league — a recruitment portal for “the pros”- masquerading as a department of Kentucky’s flagship university.

To quell this unrest, and before negotiations for a head coach goes much further, it would be helpful if UK President Eli Capilouto, made it clear that in the Big Blue Nation’s ecosystem “student-athletes are students first.” As Father Jenkins, University of Notre Dame’s president, and Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletic director, wrote in the New York Times last year, athletic programs must serve the University’s educational mission, not the other way around.

James A Kurz, Lexington

Leader worship

As Coach Calipari leaves, we are already hearing tales of dysfunctional relationships and unstable working conditions around the basketball program. Look no further than the departure of several of Cal’s closest allies to see that something was amiss behind the scenes of the Kentucky basketball program. We can be sure that there will be even more stories coming out in the coming weeks. That’s what happens when an institution is built around one person instead of an ideal or goal.

Now, it will take some time for the athletic department to rebuild because Cal had to do things his way. This should be a cautionary tale to Republicans. MAGA has no loyalty to the party or any grand ideal, but to their felony-indicted, bible-selling messiah. This worship has risen to the level of allowing Trump to take over the Republican party. Trump’s daughter-in-law now heads up the Republican party. What happens when Trump is no longer the Republican Party?

A time will come, either because he loses the next election or goes to jail, when Trump is forced out. What then? Maybe Scott Drew would be a good call then as well.

Jason Crowe, Harrodsburg

Caring Cal

There has been much discussion about the end of the John Calipari era at the University of Kentucky. There have been some accolades, some criticism, and a few hateful comments. His wins, losses, and championship banners are on the record. I believe that more than these will be the positive influence he had on the players he coached. He taught them life lessons about gratitude, humility, and giving back to the community. He defended these young men against cruel comments, reminding the critics that these were just kids. I believe that his teams will always remember him for being a mentor and for what he taught them about life. In the big scheme of things, this will outshine any of the sports statistics.

Thank you Coach Cal for caring.

Cheryl Keenan, Lexington

Other names

Concerning Coach Calipari’s departure and the future of UK Men’s Basketball: We’re good, everyone! Heed my advice and Big Blue will land a championship coach in no time.

To go for all the glory, call Bill Self. The pitch: Bill, at UK you would have the chance to achieve a singular accomplishment — winning championships at the two most iconic programs in men’s college basketball (MCBB). You would be in the running for Greatest of All Time (GOAT) Coach (though Wooden always wins out).

When he declines, go for the next great and fly Mark Few to Lexington. Don’t buy a return ticket until he signs the contract. He would finally reach the top of the MCBB mountain here at UK.

If those efforts fail, call Kelvin Sampson, pronto. This is a man who could immediately re-right the ship and lead the Cats to a championship.

I support some of the names/candidates mentioned in the press by the “experts.” Pump the brakes on Pitino and Donovan, though - those tenures are DOA. Lastly, for a real injection of spirit and defensive know-how, find Darius Miller and bring him back to Lexington as an assistant coach - he’s a class act and an All-Time Great Wildcat.


Sean McElroy, Lexington

Keeneland observations

There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s Keeneland’s willing acceptance of computer-assisted-wagers (CAWs.)

For those unfamiliar, CAWs are powerful algorithm-driven betting systems that are allowed direct access to betting pools until the race goes off. They can make thousands of bets in the seconds before a race. Mind you, there is no actual person placing these last-second bets. The “bettors” are syndicates who receive large rebates for adding significant amounts of money to the “churn.” The rebates syndicates receive, in the 6 percent range, lower their take-out and give them a big advantage over real fans. Last-second bets by CAWs are sometimes so large they dramatically change win odds. A regular fan may fancy a runner that is in the 7/2-4/1 odds range in the half hour between races only to see the odds at 2/1 after the race begins.

Of course, a day at Keeneland is more popular than ever. This is because most fans don’t realize, or don’t care, that they are being imposed upon. I, for one, do realize it, and have lowered my amount bet significantly. One would think Keeneland would be concerned when a loyal fan of 30 years feels disaffected, but they are not. Keeneland stubbornly clings to their narrative “racing as it was meant to be.”

Allowing CAWs to exert a huge influence on betting pools does not fit this narrative, nor do the rebates which give syndicates a big advantage over real fans. CAWs are yet another misuse of technology in our world. I encourage Keeneland to make changes that put the interests of real racing fans first.

John Schroeder, Sparks Nevada

Short-term rentals

Short-term rentals have been in the news recently and as a longtime citizen and property owner in Lexington I would like to share some good news about them.

Airbnb recently compiled data regarding the positive economic impact of short-term rentals across the United States and further broke it down state-by-state.

These are the numbers for Kentucky:

  • $588 million in total contribution to GDP

  • 8,600 total jobs supported

  • $161 million in total tax revenue

Further information from Airbnb found that for every $100 spent on an on an Airbnb stay, guests spent about $264 on other local goods and services which helps to further increase the positive economic impact that short-term rentals have on the community. Guests further report spending $210 per day during their trip and nearly half of that spending was in the neighborhood of their listing.

Short-term rentals also contribute to substantial tax revenue for local governments. These are just a few benefits that short-term rentals provide for the entire city and individual communities.

Finally, these numbers don’t include the additional positive economic impact from short-term rentals listed on other platforms like VRBO, etc.

Gregory Clarke, Lexington

Trump on abortion

In a recent opinion piece by David Mastio entitled, “Maybe it was the eclipse: I can’t believe it but Trump is making sense on abortion,” the writer discusses the vagaries of politicians’ expressed opinions for political expediency that are often divorced from their personal views or their actions in the past or expected for the future. This recent viewpoint by former President Donald Trump on abortion has little similarity to his prior expressed viewpoints on abortion rights, either for or against.

This is not unusual for Trump who seems to have only one unchanging pole of belief, that is, what is best for himself.

It reminds me of the old saw about a broken clock, telling perfect time twice a day. While Trump’s actions (which any citizen/voter should be looking at) are almost never in the end good for the country, his frequent and widely varying pronouncements may be occasionally accurate. This seems to me to be a matter of chance more than insight.

George W Noe, Harrodsburg

Gaza victims

I’m writing today because I just watched a nine-year-old girl crying out in pain in Gaza from shrapnel wounds, but there was no pain medication to help her.

I come at this from the perspective of someone who supports Israel and has always supported Jewish causes. Oct. 7 was an atrocity, and I supported going after HAMAS in a targeted way.

Now, things have reached the point of committing war crimes, including forced starvation and tricking people into going to a safe zone that they are now going to bomb and invade.

I propose the following - first, we need to help with equipment and financial aid to organizations like the WHO and others who are inside Gaza actively helping. This includes demanding food and medication be let in.

Second, we demand that more United Nations inspectors be allowed in to document ongoing and past activities/atrocities. Israel seems to be purposefully targeting people who are trying to document things.

Third, it’s time to cut off arms to Israel. First we start with offensive weaponry. Then, if they still keep escalating, and begin to invade Rafah, defensive weaponry. History is not going to forgive or forget the fact that weapons have American serial numbers on them.

I’ve been disappointed, as I have tried calling U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, to no avail. I’ve heard him talk about babies, children, and abortion endlessly over the years to churn up votes but he’s quiet about the over 10,000 children and babies dead in Gaza.

Grant Short, Owensboro

Compiled by Liz Carey