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After so many losses, Coach Cal should quit. If he has any character, he will. | Opinion

Coming of age in Christian County in the Rick Pitino era, I was raised to treat the University of Kentucky ball team like golden gods. I remember the summer when the Unforgettables came through on their Commonwealth-wide tour. The Hopkinsville High School gymnasium was packed, every attendee on their feet — a better reception than then Vice-President Dan Quayle got when he visited the very same spot a mere month or so before.

They are not golden gods. They are 18 and 19 and 20 year-old boys: people who have lives both on and off the court, with their own aspirations and dreams. But in as much as the royal family represents the United Kingdom, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team represents us. As their record and behavior go, so goes the reputation — the symbol, the image — of Kentucky.

As the owner of an international translation company, I have traveled to 17 different countries and across the United States. I’ve lived in Kentucky; New York; Washington, DC; and France. Wherever I have gone, I have paid close attention to the stereotype and impression people in those places have of our great state. We are last in education. We are highest in diabetes. They do not like how we vote. But one thing I have always been able to take pride in is we are first in ball, the winningest club in the nation.

But are we? Are we really anymore? I sold my company in 2015, the last year UK made the Final Four. An undefeated season. That was nine years ago. We haven’t progressed beyond first-round play since 2019 — five years, as long as it takes to cycle an entire student body, a whole generation of students to never celebrate a Sweet Sixteen. This year we did not win the SEC for the third year in a row, the first time this has happened since 1927. That’s nearly one hundred years. An century ago.

We’ve all seen the stats. We’ve also seen the buyout number: over $33 million, an unimaginable figure in a state where the average Kentuckian makes $57,200 a year and 15% of us live in poverty — the sixth highest rate in the nation.

Again, basketball is something for which we have always been able to be proud. We have always been able to raise our heads.

Coach Cal, if you have character, you will quit. You have failed in your job. In the age of golden gods, I was raised that the court did not make an athlete. The game made a man. Now what sort of man are you? You are charged with the oversight of 18 and 19 year-old growing men. If you had done your job, you would have shepherded and led them onto victory. Instead, you treat these young players as though they are meat and you are the NBA grinder. They are not fodder to fill a draft. They are people. And we are the people who love them.

Terena Bell
Terena Bell

Terena Bell is a Christian County native and the author of “Tell Me What You See.”