Busy summer includes arrests, championships, coaching moves

Keith Farner

As we trade suntan lotion for textbooks, let’s look at the summer’s stories with connections to the Hill:

• For the first time in 24 years, baseball coach Joel Murrie led Western to the NCAA tournament. And, despite being a heavy underdog to host Ole Miss in Game 1, the Hilltoppers beat the Rebels 1-0 behind nine innings from pitcher Grady Hinchman.

The fairytale story sputtered the next two days in losses to Tulane and Washington.

• In similarly shocking news, softball coach Leslie Phelan resigned May 20 because of health issues related to rheumatoid arthritis. Phelan was one of the easiest coaches at Western to work with and she will be missed this spring. She was replaced by Rachel Lawson, a former Maryland assistant who played at Massachusetts.

• In another postseason run with a retro feel, the track and field team won its second consecutive Sun Belt Championship for the first time since 1974 and 1975. Junior thrower Raigo Toompuu was the top point scorer with 34. In other track news, senior sprinter Jonathan Brown finished sixth in the NCAA Championships. Brown later competed in the U.S. Olympic Time Trials in Sacramento, Calif.

• Former offensive lineman Anthony Oakley signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns to join another former Topper, Sherrod Coates. Both are buried in the depth chart, but Coates may see some time on special teams. Bobby Sippio, another former Topper, joined the Miami Dolphins and was moved to wide receiver two weeks ago. Although Sippio was a defensive back at Western, he played both ways when he was in the Arena Football League.

• With some sad NFL news, former Western football player and current Indianapolis Colt, Joseph Jefferson was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in May. It was Jefferson’s second DUI charge in seven months. Jefferson didn’t play last season because of a hernia injury. Those in the know around Colts country say Jefferson could get plenty of playing time if he is healthy and not in trouble. Jefferson had an interception in the Colts preseason win over San Diego.

• Former Western football coach Jack Harbaugh left Marquette for the University of San Diego to coach the Toreros with his son Jim. Jack will be assistant head coach and running back coach.

• One of the newest Toppers, Deion Holts, a linebacker and transfer from the University of Kentucky, was arrested less than a month after being added to the roster. Holts was arrested in Logan County after police found him in a car that carried $3,500 in stolen golf clubs and bags from Rolling Hills Golf Course. Head football coach David Elson suspended Holts indefinitely pending the outcome of the case.

• It’s August, but in Kentucky, it’s never too early to talk hoops. The gradual reduction of second-year men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn’s program continued. On May 7, Nick Hill, Ryan Lambert and Kevin Massiah were given their releases from the program. Lambert will be the most significant loss, but Horn will also experience some depth issues. Those departures leave Horn with just four scholarship players from last season.

And I thought the football team was going to be young.

• There were plenty of comings and goings with Mary Taylor Cowles’ team this summer. The Lady Toppers brought in Marquette transfer Sarah Shouse while they watched freshman sensation Carla Bartee transfer to Ole Miss. Cowles will also lose sophomore forward Charlotte Marshall to a right shoulder surgery this season.

Keith Farner is a sports columnist and sports editor at the Herald. Reach him at [email protected]