Wes Unseld and his winning ways

By Ed Peak

Big Wesley Unseld was the total package. Some actually believe he was the greatest to ever play basketball at the University of Louisville. The 74-year-old  local legend died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia, according to a statement from his family.

In his three year varsity career, he averaged 20 points and 18 rebounds a game, helping the Cardinals to win two Missouri Valley Conference titles. Unseld’s team lost to Houston and Elvin Hayes in his senior year — a classic matchup of two of the game’s best in the NCAA Touranment.

Unseld was a second round pick of the Baltimore Bullets. He was selected as one of the league’s 50 Greatest Players by NBA.com in 2017. He also coached the Bullets before moving to the front office. He won Rookie of the Year and League MVP honors and led Baltimore to its only NBA title.

I had the opportunity to interview Unseld before the Bullets played an exhibition game at Freedom Hall. Wes, then the head coach, came on the playing floor before warmups. He spotted me, calmly asking, “What are we talking about today?” He looked at me over those big glasses, never cracking a smile. He was in game mode two hours before game. It didn’t matter if was just an exhibition game. Continue reading “Wes Unseld and his winning ways”

Quit giving college baseball the cold shoulder

By Ed Peak

One could say that Ed Peak gets excited over things most people don’t even think about. The last two weeks or so I’ve been hungry for those preseason college football magazines. I picked up two Saturday.

With sports sidelined because of the pandemic since March. I was chomping at the bit, anxiously waiting for something. Anything. NASCAR provided a little relief. as did horse racing and golf.

When I heard the conjecture that professional, college and high school football will be played this fall I was giddy. It looks like the NBA is coming back in Orlando at Disney World. If we could only get major league back on the field, it won’t be a lost summer.

I have sorely missed University of Louisville baseball and coach Dan McDonnell. This could have been Dan’s best. We’ll never know.  We do know McDonnell is in favor of moving the baseball season further into July. Instead of beginning in February as the Cardinals do and a lot of teams in the North and East do, it makes sense to move the start of the season.

Continue reading “Quit giving college baseball the cold shoulder”

Seth Dawkins Faces a Battle to Establish Himself in Seattle

The University of Louisville football program has produced a plethora of top talent over the years, although by their own high standards, the 2020 NFL Draft was far from their most fruitful. Mekhi Becton made headlines as the No. 11 overall pick at the end of April and he will be keen to follow in the footsteps of both Jaire Alexander and Lamar Jackson. However, the likes of Justin Haycraft and Seth Dawkins were unfortunately left undrafted. 

Dawkins’ disappointment was short-lived however, with the promising wide receiver signing a rookie free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks. The NFC West outfit have been incredibly busy over the last couple of months, and with 17 rookies being added to their roster, the former UofL man will have his work cut out in order to prove himself at CenturyLink Field. 

Dawkins is likely to go straight into the practice squad, although his physicality and speed may help him stand out from the crowd. The Seahawks have waived a number of players from their 90-man roster in order to make room for the latest batch of recruits, and the 21-year old will be determined to avoid a similar fate. 

Cardinals fans have enjoyed seeing Dawkins develop in Louisville over the last couple of years, and anyone who has followed his progress will attest that he has plenty to offer the 2013 Superbowl champions. He left Kentucky with 84 receptions, 1,323 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, and posted solid numbers despite an injury-hit 2018 campaign. His crowning moment came vs Boston College in October hauling six passes for 170 yards. It was a remarkable afternoon for the wide receiver, who, alongside teammate Dez Fitzpatrick, became the first UofL player to break the 100-yard barrier since October 2017. 

Coach Scott Satterfield encourages stretch play, and that has certainly helped Dawkins develop his game over the last couple of seasons. His sophomore year, working with the aforementioned Lamar Jackson at quarterback, was undoubtedly his most successful period for the Cardinals, and he could potentially benefit from playing alongside the consistent Russell Wilson in Seattle. 

Despite his big-play talent, Dawkins faces some stiff competition, and a combination of hard work and luck will be required in order to break through. Tyler Lockett is an exceptional receiver, whilst DK Metcalf excelled during his rookie season. With Phillip Dorsett and David Moore waiting in the wings, the new arrival is unlikely to get much time on the pitch in 2020. However, the correct application in training and one or two injuries may just help push him up the pecking order. 

Whilst the majority of Cardinals fans will be following Becton’s progress at the Jets, some may also be keeping a keen eye on the Seahawks’ progress throughout the course of the campaign. The NFL season gets underway in September, and there are a number of changes that could be introduced ahead of its commencement. New measures may include an alternative to the onside kick, whilst a booth umpire and senior technology advisor could also be implemented. If it is given the green light, the new assistant would have access to a continuous video feed enabling them to aid the on-field officials, and this is yet another example of the sport continuing to embrace technology.

Fans can also benefit from technological advances with the return of NextVR which will allow viewers to enjoy on-demand highlights as well as an immersive post-game experience. NFL followers were also able to stream the 2020 NFL Draft at the end of April, whilst EA Sports also created animated versions of the rookies, complete with virtual handshakes and crossings of the stage. It isn’t the first time that fans of different sports have been able to enjoy an imitation of their favorite sporting events or moments, and the popularity of these has been substantiated by both the exponential rise of eSports and the vast number of virtual football betting sites offering simulated versions of the sporting occasions. 

Cardinals fans may have to wait a while before they are able to witness Seth Dawkins in full flight using NextVR; however, despite finding himself a fair way down the pecking order, he appears to have both the right attitude and all of the attributes to succeed in NFL, and could be the latest UofL graduate to be a success at the highest level.

Ed Kallay was unapologetic about being a Louisville homer

WAVE-TV Photos

While watching WAVE-TV’s recent replay of the University of Louisville basketball team’s win over UCLA in 1980, I was reminded that one of UofL’s biggest fans ever was not in Indianapolis that night. He would have been overjoyed.

Unfortunately, Ed Kallay, a highly popular media personality synonymous with UofL sports, died three years before that game. It finally struck me the other night that it was a shame he never saw UofL’s first national championship.

Ed Kallay was synonymous with UofL sports in the Sixties and Seventies.

If you’re a Cardinals’ fan and over 50 years old, you grew up listening to him on WAVE radio calling Louisville games.  Kallay was sometimes criticized for his overt rooting for local teams and calling the players by their first names. “That ref must need glasses,” he would say when a call went against UofL.

Ed would never apologize for being a homer. He was a fan first and a play-by-play announcer second. “I couldn’t do it any other way,” he once said.”I make a lot of mistakes… I never try to fool anybody on the air, I admit it right off. A lot of people watch me just to see how much I goof up”

Ed Kallay hosted the Tomorrow’s Champions boxing show in the late Fifties.

He was also the play-by-play announcer for the Louisville Colonels baseball team, often calling the road games by teletype and recorded crowd noise from the WAVE radio studio. He was frustrated by the Colonels at times, frequently declaring, “These guys just can’t stand prosperity.”

As fate would have it, Ed was the first person I saw before a Colonels’ game after making the trip to Louisville from Versailles in 1959. Never ever met anyone he didn’t like.

Kallay was also a close friend to Muhammad Ali and may have played a role in the champ’s later success. He along with Joe Martin, a local policeman and traine

Ed kept the conversation lively with his puppeteer friends on Funny Flickers.

r, started a boxing program called “Tomorrow’s Champions” on WAVE-TV. Muhammad, then known as Cassius Clay, made frequent appearances on the show, along with Jimmy Ellis and Rudell Stitch.

He was known as “Uncle Ed” to a generation of Louisvillians for his noontime show called Funny Flickers on WAVE. The show featured some lively conversation with some dangling marionettes, along with black and white movies of the Little Rascals and the antics of Spanky and Alfalfa.

“Sure, I laugh at myself. I know a lot of people are laughing with me.” Despite offers to go elsewhere, he once said, “Louisville is where I’ll stay.”

Ed Kallay was a Louisville legend. Sorry if you missed him.

Notre Dame offers hope for leery administrators and football programs

Notre Dame finally announced on Monday that it would welcome students back to campus for the 2020-21 academic year the week of Aug. 10, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. The school will forgo fall break in October and end the semester before Thanksgiving.

According to the ND web site, the reopening plan will include comprehensive testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements. The school also has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students.

The significance, of course, is that Notre Dame is a national icon for college football.  Notre Dame is among the most beloved and respected schools as well, a leading opinion influencer among educational institutions. Does that mean the return of college football is a safe bet for the 2020-21 football season?

Father John Jenkins, the school president, is obviously under pressure to make it happen but not all in yet. “It’s not just our decision,” he told NBC on Tuesday. “It’s the decision of all division one institutions across the nation, and so we’re going to talk to them and see what is safe and what is possible. I hope we’ll have sports. I hope we’ll have football. We’ll just have to see.”

While he wasn’t exactly going out on a limb, one has to give the Notre Dame leader credit for at least broaching the subject. Most other administrators have been reluctant, not wanting to be the first to discuss the possibility of college football next fall.

That doesn’t include the California State University system, which has announced that football can wait. The system includes Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State, the only programs in the CSU system that compete on the FBS level. Not a popular decision and they will regret it if everyone else is playing.

The University of Louisville, meanwhile, has announced that that UofL will return to regular campus operations, including students on campus and attending in-person classes. President Neeli Bendapudi noted even during 2020 spring semester that 2,700 students remained in campus facilities or affiliated housing.

Athletic Director Vince Tyra earlier indicated a decision would depend on whether students are back at school. In essence, then, the University is preparing to go ahead with a full menu this fall. That, of course, would include college football.

UofL was ahead of the game in announcing its plans. The fact that Notre Dame is now planning the do the same will give other administrators the courage to make their plans public. College football fans, desperate for the return of normalcy, may have something to cheer about this fall.