Bits ’n pieces about Vols, Gatlin, Kentucky arrest

Marvin Westwestwords

Misquoting Shakespeare to the point of no connection, heavy is the crown atop the king’s head.


That said and committed to memory, Alabama State gets first opportunity to knock the top off Tennessee’s No. 1 reputation in college baseball. The Vols are the top seed in the NCAA tournament of 64 teams.

The incoming Hornets (34-23) represent the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Friday game time is 6 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Tickets are tight. SEC Network is the substitute.

Visiting coach Jose Vasquez says “We got the pieces in place, and the expectation and the goal is to try to make it to Omaha, just like everybody else in this tournament.”

Hmmm, we’ll see.

***

As a way to distract from the NIL dumpster fire featuring Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, The Tuscaloosa News says Arkansas will be a more difficult foe than Tennessee for Alabama football. Take that for what it is worth. Meanwhile, we’re looking for extra tickets with a senior discount for the Tide-Texas A&M game.

***

Vol defensive back Cheyenne Labruzza says he is excited to announce that he is a licensed real estate agent in the state of Tennessee.

“I’m ready to dive in and tackle this opportunity!”

Does this sound like an NIL deal?

***

Offensive tackle Lucas Simmons of Clearwater (Florida) Academy International is getting close to a 2023 commitment. The Swedish transplant and his parents just visited Tennessee.

Simmons’ father, Able, played with Josh Heupel at Oklahoma. Billy Ray Johnson, special assistant to the coach, recruited Able for the Sooners. That is called pre-existing relationships.

There are other interesting circumstances. Young Simmons heard that Tennessee has a commitment from a five-star quarterback, Nico Iamaleava.

Lucas said wow.

They met. Nico said Lucas looks to be the perfect size and shape to become a best friend – 6-7 and 300.

Nico also said “Go Vols.”

Money talks.

***

Memphis, the city, wants to help Memphis, the school, buy its way into a better athletic conference. Conversation is about stadium renovation, maybe $200 million, to make the Tigers look like they belong.

City and school officials have talked themselves into believing an improved city-owned arena might lead to a Power Five invitation, a promotion from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12.

Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston have already moved up.

Could the Southeastern Conference be a possible landing place? No way. Not ever.

***

A warrant was issued for Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez (1,379 yards and nine touchdowns) for failure to appear for arraignment on multiple traffic charges, including driving under the influence.

Rodriguez was charged with careless driving, driving with a broken tail light, failure to stay in a designated lane and being slow to pull over in response to flashing blue lights.

There are whispers that something worse may he hiding in the shadows, that Rodriguez might be lost for a season.

Have you ever heard of anything like this happening in Tuscaloosa?

***

As Dr. Danny White searched far and wide for a new track coach, and wisely sought recommendations, a famous name popped up. Let us acknowledge the retirement of Tennessee’s most decorated (and most controversial) professional sprinter.

Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin, 40, has decided 21 years in and around big-league competition is enough already.

Gatlin was born in Brooklyn. He grew up in Pensacola. He accumulated high school ribbons and bows as a hurdler. Previous UT coaches, smart, very smart, removed the barricades. He won six NCAA titles and 15 Olympic and world sprint medals. Alas, he was twice sidelined by doping bans.

In 2001, his freshman year at Tennessee, Gatlin won NCAA 100 and 200-meter gold. Soon thereafter, he tested positive for amphetamines and was banned from international competition for two years.

Gatlin was a partial winner on appeal. He said the positive was from medications he had been taking since childhood, when he was diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder. The penalty was cut in half.

Justin won four more NCAA championships and turned pro after his sophomore season. Many highlights followed. He won the 100 at the historic 2004 Olympics, back where it all started, in Athens, Greece.

In 2006, he incurred a four-year ban for testing positive for testosterone. That sanction erased his then-world-record 9.77 seconds. He endured, ran where he could, dabbled with the possibility of pro football and returned to main events in 2010.

In 2012 at the U.S. Olympic Trials, he ran 9.8, fastest-ever for a man over age 30. At 33, he broke that record with a 9.74. Only four others have ever run faster at any age

Consider this: Gatlin won the 100 in world championships of 2005 and 2017 – 12 years apart. Before and in between, he won the world indoor 60 title and four more Olympic medals. He excelled as anchor for USA 4×100 relay teams.

There were other smiles. On June 6, 2013, in Rome, he finally beat Usain Bolt. In 2015, he became the only man to ever run below 9.8 five times in one season. In 2017, he defeated a young friend, another fast former Volunteer, Christian Coleman.

Postscript: Gatlin recommended Duane Ross for the Tennessee track coaching job. He got it.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

 

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