Warren East names Brandon Combs as boys’ basketball coach

Former Bowling Green High School assistant coach Brandon Combs was introduced Monday as Warren East’s new boys’ basketball coach.

Combs has been an assistant on the Purples’ staff since 2010-11. He was previously head coach at Cumberland County and Menifee County.

Combs replaces Casey Simpson, who resigned from Warren East in March after five seasons. The Raiders went 61-77 during Simpson’s tenure, including 51-32 over the last three seasons.

East finished 15-11 in 2013-14 and lost to South Warren in the play-in game of the District 14 Tournament.

Combs compiled a 34-68 record at Cumberland County. The Panthers won 11 total games his first two seasons but went 13-11 in 2008-09, losing by one in triple overtime to Bowling Green in the Region 4 Tournament.

He spent the 2005-06 season coaching Menifee County and was an assistant at Edmonson County, Warren Central and Metcalfe County before that.

Combs is a graduate of Barren County High School.

He’ll be the third new District 14 boys’ basketball coach next season.

Greenwood hired Jordan Carter two weeks ago to replace Jason Stonebraker, and South Warren has yet to replace Derrick Clubb.

KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett talks latest state site selections

I talked with KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett today after the Board of Control voted to move the girls’ basketball state tournament from WKU to Northern Kentucky University for 2016-17, as well as keep state softball in Owensboro through 2018. BG had entered a bid to host softball at Buchanon Park.

Tackett also confirmed WKU will continue to host the state football finals through 2018. Here are his comments:


On girls’ basketball site decision: “There is nothing that anyone did wrong. There was simply, as I observed and listened to the discussion, there were a number of the board members who wanted to try a new site. We could not ask more out of a host venue or a title partner than we’ve had with Bowling Green and Houchens. But the board did this action short term, for two years, so they could evaluate and see.”

Comparisons between proposals for WKU, NKU: “They ended up with a very similar net dollar sponsorship. Northern Kentucky offered more in terms of title sponsorship, but they’re going to charge a venue rental that’s not being charged at Western. There are some unknown costs when you’re dealing with new arenas. All the things that were spelled out were very comparable, with the exception of a couple very specific things, in security and police – things Western has done some fabulously over the years providing.”

Did Region 4’s decision to leave WKU affect anything? “It didn’t have anything to do with that. Some of the things they’ve made available for the state tournament, they don’t even do for local events. There was never anything negative said about anyone affiliated with Bowling Green. The overwhelming thing I heard from the discussion was that they wanted to see if trying something new would jumpstart the event and make it grow.”

Board choosing Owensboro over BG for softball: “Bowling Green had a fantastic proposal, but the current site came in with some community support that we’ve certainly never seen on the softball side and made sure some of the eventualities – such as if we have a rain day and have to keep teams in a hotel an extra day – that we don’t put a financial drain on the association. The sponsorship dollars were a big difference, and the other thing, frankly, was that there were some things identified to the Owensboro facility a year ago that were deficiencies, that they addressed. I would dare say that facilities like the one in Bowling Green gave them a model to look at.”

Keeping state football at WKU with Russell Athletic as sponsor: “Russell had a little turnover in some of their people in promotion, and with the girls’ state tournament, we just haven’t had a time to sit down and fine-tune that contract. The board has already authorized me to extend that contract through 2018. We’ve very comfortable. We know the Russell people are very supportive and have indicated they were on board for sure, so we definitely want to try to finalize that very, very soon.”

Bowling Green loses girls’ state hoops tournament to NKU, while Owensboro keeps state softball

Bowling Green’s future with high school state championships got a lot thinner Tuesday.

The KHSAA voted in its Board of Control meeting to award the girls’ state basketball tournament – hosted at Western Kentucky University since 2001 – to Northern Kentucky’s The Bank of Kentucky Center for 2016-17.

The governing body also voted to keep the state softball tournament at Owensboro’s Jack C. Fisher Park from 2015-18.

Bowling Green was the only other city to enter bids for both events.

“We’re very disappointed with girls’ basketball,” said Amy Cardwell, sports sales director of the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We knew softball would be a long shot to move it out of a place it’s been for a number of years. Sometimes things have to leave to appreciate where they’ve been and what they had.

“We will look for other things to fill those dates and that time. There’s never a shortage of people wanting to be in Bowling Green, and we’ll work very hard to fill the hotel rooms.”

WKU has hosted the girls’ state basketball tournament at E.A. Diddle Arena 20 times since 1985, including every year since 2001. The 2015 state tournament will be the last under that contract at Diddle Arena, which seats 7,326.

WKU has eight of the top nine total girls’ state tournament attendance records, as well as six of the top seven for a single session – only one of which surpasses 6,000 fans.

The event has been sponsored by Houchens Industries, which was prepared to stay on as title sponsor for the next bidding cycle, said Jeff Younglove, WKU’s director of campus and community events.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Younglove said. “We felt like we put in a competitive bid – no costs to KHSAA with Houchens’ financial support. We’re disappointed, but we wish them luck. We’ll make a run at it when it comes open. … They evidently wanted to try another direction.”

Cardwell previously told the Daily News the girls’ state basketball tournament usually welcomes 30,000 to 35,000 visitors to the community. She “conservatively” projected the local economic boost from the tournament at $75 per visitor per day.

Cardwell said Tuesday that Houchens’ sponsorship package for girls’ basketball has typically been $50,000.

“Houchens has been a phenomenal sponsor,” she said. “Very loyal to the KHSAA. They stepped up when no one ever had. They set a precedent that nobody had ever set before. Like I said, I feel like they needed to try something new. I don’t know why. Things were very good in Bowling Green.

“No matter what, I want this event to be a positive event for the girls involved, always.”

NKU and The Bank of the Kentucky Center, which opened in 2008 and seats 9,400, have never hosted the girls’ state tournament.

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Daily News. The Board of Control was scheduled to address other matters Tuesday after the state site selections.

Bowling Green hoped to host the state softball tournament at Michael O. Buchanon Park, which has been upgraded in recent years to include eight tournament-sized softball fields and wireless Internet.

Owensboro has hosted the state softball tournament 11 times since the event began in 1995 – nine at Fisher Park and two at Panther Creek Park. It’s hosted each years since 2008.

Hopkinsville and Jeffersontown are the only cities other than Owensboro to host state softball.

Bowling Green hosts the state football championships – partnered with Russell Athletic – at WKU’s Houchens-Smith Stadium, but that contract expires after the 2014 season.

BG also has the boys’ and girls’ state golf championships – partnered with Leachman Buick GMC Cadillac – at Bowling Green Country Club through 2020. The city relinquished the cheerleading championships to Lexington this year because of scheduling conflicts, Cardwell said.

— Follow prep sports writer Zach Greenwell on Twitter at twitter.com/zach_greenwell or visit bgdailynews.com.

WKU safety Jonathan Dowling drafted by Oakland Raiders in seventh round

Jonathan Dowling

Jonathan Dowling

Western Kentucky junior safety Jonathan Dowling became the second Hilltopper selected in the 2014 NFL Draft on Saturday, heading to the Oakland Raiders with the 247th overall pick in the seventh round.

Dowling was picked just nine spots from the end of the draft and said he stopped watching in the late rounds, opting to pass the time in the backyard while checking his phone.

“It’s just a blessing, man,” Dowling said. “Just a blessing. I really want to thank everybody at Western for giving me a second chance and believing in me. It feels good.”

Dowling – a 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound prospect – joins WKU linebacker Andrew Jackson, who was drafted by Indianapolis in the sixth round. It’s the first time the Tops have had two picks in the same draft since Joseph Jefferson and Mel Mitchell were selected in 2002.

This is the eighth time WKU has had multiple draft picks but just the second time since 1991.

“It’s really good,” Dowling said. “We both worked hard and knew we would play, so it’s great that we both got our chance.”

Dowling had 135 tackles, nine interceptions and eight forced fumbles over two years with WKU after transferring to the Hill from the University of Florida, where he was dismissed as a freshman. He was a four-star high school prospect out of Bradenton, Fla.

NFL.com grades him a 5.32, which projects as “NFL backup or special teams potential.”

NFL.com’s scouting report praised Dowling’s height, length and playmaking ability, but questioned his tackling fundamentals, durability and character.

Dowling is the first WKU player to be drafted by Oakland.

“I feel like it’s going to be a good fit,” Dowling said. “I honestly felt like I would’ve been a good fit anywhere, and I’m just ready to work. I’m glad I’ve got some people who really want me, and I think it’s going to work out good. I’m going to try to learn everything I can from Charles Woodson.”

WKU linebacker Andrew Jackson drafted in sixth round by Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

Western Kentucky linebacker Andrew Jackson was selected Saturday by the Indianapolis Colts with the 203rd overall pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

Jackson, a 6-foot-1-inch, 254-pound inside linebacker, is WKU’s 29th overall draft pick and second in as many years. Defensive end Quanterus Smith was selected by Denver in last year’s fifth round.

This is the first time the Hilltoppers have had draft picks in back-to-back years since 2002-03. WKU’s last draft pick by Indianapolis was Joseph Jefferson in 2002, which was the Tops’ highest pick ever.

Jackson’s selection by the Colts reunites him with former WKU tight end Jack Doyle, who joined Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent last season and made the final roster.

“Very proud of Andrew and I am excited to have him joining the Colts!” Doyle told the Daily News by text message.

Jackson led WKU in tackles in 2011 and 2012 and finished with 326 career tackles. He totaled 95 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and one sack in 2013.

“Congrats to on getting drafted by the !” WKU coach Jeff Brohm posted on Twitter. “That’s one team leader we will miss on The Hill

NFL.com grades him a 5.18, projecting a “better-than-average chance to make NFL roster.”

NFL.com’s scouting report praised Jackson’s physicality, agility and thick build, but questioned his length, maturity and speed.

“He was very productive during his career at Western Kentucky,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said during the outlet’s live broadcast. “He made big plays as well, and when we makes a tackle, he puts all his weight – that 260 pounds – behind it. Doesn’t always break down in space, but he’s fairly light on his feet for a kid his size. You’re not going to make a living in the NFL making stops in lateral pursuit at 260. But between the tackles, as that run-stopper, he can make big plays.”

ACS junior guard Morgan Rich verbally commits to Kentucky

Morgan Rich posted this photo on her Instagram account in a post announcing her commitment to the Wildcats.

Morgan Rich posted this photo on her Instagram account in a post announcing her commitment to the Wildcats.

Allen County-Scottsville junior guard Morgan Rich plans to remain in-state for college after verbally committing to Kentucky on Thursday.

She first announced the news in an Instagram post, showing photos of her around UK’s campus with coach Matthew Mitchell.

“I had the gut feeling with Kentucky that I hadn’t had anywhere else,” Rich said. “I just got close to the coaches, and (Mitchell) is a great guy. I believe Kentucky girls belong in Kentucky. We want to do something that’s never been done and win a national championship with Kentucky girls.”

Rich cited her relationship with UK’s entire coaching staff as a big influence, as well as the chance to play with other Kentucky natives Makayla Epps, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and Maci Morris.

She said she chose Kentucky over Vanderbilt. Her other scholarship offers included Western Kentucky, Alabama, Ole Miss, Dayton, Middle Tennessee, Marquette and Virginia Tech.

The 5-foot-11-inch guard averaged 20.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.2 blocks this season before tearing her right ACL on Feb. 7 against Monroe County – the same night she broke the school’s scoring record. She had surgery soon after to repair the ligament and said she’s into the seventh week of her rehab.

All Star Girls Report’s Bret McCormick has Rich ranked 83rd in the nation in the 2015 class.