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Commonwealth Stadium Renovation now on UK President


Today’s interview with David Williams on KSR was a good learning experience for me. I learned that good politicians (of which he is one) are (a) good at answering the question they want, rather than necessarily the one you asked and (b) don’t love the confrontational style that we like on KSR. With that said, Senator Williams was interesting to speak with and offered to come back at any time on the show. He is a somewhat gruff guy that isn’t quite “warm and fuzzy”, but while we don’t agree on this (or likely much else), I always appreciate anyone willing to actually debate their position with one who disagrees. The only time he really seemed to get upset at me was when I suggested his position was liberal (government oversight on spending projects even if the market would allow them) and mine conservative (allowing the Universities to get funding if the market deems the project repayable). While I dont mind being called a liberal, Senator Williams is not quite as fond of the term. Nevertheless, he said he enjoyed talking about these issues and even laughed at the back and forth saying, “this is just how you and I talk to each other.” In the course of the conversation, I thought he touched on some important points, although he didn’t truly answer my question as to the justification for Kentucky remaining the only state in the SEC to not allow their major Universities to initiate bonding projects on their own. He also noted that in his 10 years as Senate President, he and Mitch Barnhart have never had a conversation, a fact that while understandable (those conversations likely go through the UK President), probably should be changed.

However, Williams did make one very important point. Williams said unequivocally that he would support a Commonwealth Stadium renovation that was given with dedicated revenue (which virtually any such renovation project could easily have), if it was apart from the other academic UK requests. This is an important step for Commonwealth Stadium renovation possibilities. While Williams has never said he was against such a request, he has also never said he was for one either. Many I have talked to behind the scenes in UK athletics, including former members of the UK Athletic Board, did not think Williams supported such requests. Now that he has said publicly he does, the makeup for such proposals can change. Williams is clear that a Commonwealth Stadium proposal detached from other University projects (where the dedicated revenue is more indirect) will have his support. This is a HUGE hurdle.

So now the ball moves into another court. For a major Commonwealth Stadium renovation to take place, it now must be supported by UK President Eli Capilouto. In the last budget, a Commonwealth Stadium renovation was included, but was tied to academic projects without dedicated revenue. Williams was clear that he would not support such a request. But with UK Athletics able to create a Commonwealth Stadium project with its own dedicated revenue, it is now up to Capiluoto to allow it to happen. There are other projects on campus that need funding, but presumably Williams’ statement today suggests that an approval of a Commonwealth Stadium project set alone, would not have a negative impact on the UK academic projects. To put it another way, if a pool of bond approval exists for UK renovations, Williams’ comments suggest that the Commonwealth Stadium project could be approved without affecting that pool. That means it is up to Capilouto to approve such an individual request.

The question is, will he? The reality is that UK likes to bundle athletic projects (which have wide support) with academic renovations where dedicated revenue isn’t as clear. Some believe that the President and Board of Trustees do not want the athletic requests separate, as the support for them in the legislature drags along other academic requests. If this is true, President Capilouto may not allow an individual Commonwealth Stadium request, EVEN THOUGH it can (a) easily be approved and (b) easily paid for with directed revenue. Barnhart will not likely come out publicly and put the onus on his boss in this way, but the reality is this is where the next step lies.

Even if you believe (as I do), that David Williams and the Kentucky Senate should allow UK to do its bonding on its own, it was clear by his statements today that it won’t happen as long as the Kentucky Senate leadership is in its current state. With that road closed (at least until a change in the leadership’s position or a change in the leadership), that means that the future of any Commonwealth Stadium renovation lies with the UK President. IF he allows it to be an individual request apart from his academic requests, it will be approved. If not, the future does not look as bright. All eyes on Eli.

Article written by Matt Jones

50 Comments for Commonwealth Stadium Renovation now on UK President

  1. Experienced
    8:26 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Mr. Williams, trying to get the votes I see. 😉

  2. mores
    8:32 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Glad to see you putting all this work in Matt. At times in the past I’ve been frustrated with the lack of attention given to football on this site, but you’ve been working very hard to really get to the meat of a lot of our problems this offseason. Your interviews with Barnhart and Williams have been superb and have dispelled a lot of incorrect information that floated around because no one cared enough to interview the policymakers to clear it up.

  3. Duke sucks
    8:36 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Can’t believe Matt really had something good to say about a rep. About time

  4. bart edwards
    8:39 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    How sad is it that a ridiculous site like this (which I read every day) has done more to clarify the stadium funding issue[s] than the Athletic Director and the rest of the state? Leave it to us to put the right questions to the right people and put them on the spot when no one else will. Good job, gentlemen.

  5. UK Football Fan
    8:40 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    You have done amazing work Matt; There are not too many journalists who could really change a sports program like you could possibly do!

  6. Billy Clyde
    8:42 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    1. The GA only allows UK/UL 1-2 construction projects a year (requiring bond service). he didn’t say he would approve the project for UK IN ADDITION to a priority project (e.g. parking structure, research facility, health care facility, residence hall). So, what he says really isn’t that surprising.

    2. UK had to turn to Goldman Sachs for residence hall projects. Clearly, these projects have dedicated revenue streams because there is interest from the private sector. So just because UK demonstrates a dedicated revenue source does not mean the state will approve it.

    3. The Commonwealth is consistently rated the worst managed state in the union. The paternalistic attitude of the GA doesn’t help institutions of higher ed.

    Good interview.

  7. BigBlueWestCoast
    8:46 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Echo to 2,4,5. Great to see some serious, change-inducing effort (which I love) mixed in with “the ridiculous” (which I also love) on this site. You guys are using your platform to make fans happy, make enemies furious, and make powers that be in this state (at UK and in government) listen to the concerns of its fans and citizens. Kudos to you.

  8. JayCee
    8:53 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Agreed. All we’ve ever wanted is an equal voice for football from your platform.

    Seriously, man… you could be THE GUY that initiates the start of something big for UK FB. Make that happen.

  9. Jenny Craig Pitino
    8:56 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    How has Barnhart not talked to Williams about UK projects? I thought Williams offered a good “put up, or shut up” to UK to get the project done, call his bluff UK.

  10. Laker Cat 18
    9:08 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    We’re putting the entire football program on the shoulders of a guy who wouldn’t even cancel classes at his university while their basketball played in the national championship game. You think he gives a rats @$$ about football?

  11. Me
    9:14 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Ok, let’s say we get what we want on the stadium, and its the newest and nicest in all the SEC – what happens when we have the same product on the field for 10+ years after renovations?

    Lipstick on a pig is still just a pig with lipstick…

  12. UKBlue
    9:18 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    As the saying goes; You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. A lot of times when it comes to things UK & the Big Blue Nation facts at times can be optional.

    I’m not the biggest fan in the world of Williams, but what he said today makes total business sense. People may not agree with how the state does bonding, but this is Frankfort (no matter if you are Republican or Democrat) ability to control the colleges in KY getting themselves into huge amounts of debt that the state of KY tax payers would ultimately be on the hook for if the school couldn’t make their bond payment, ie the same thing that has now happened to the City of Louisville on the Yum Center.

    The fact that no one from UK has ever had a sit down meeting with Williams about whatever is beyond ridiculous; too many insecure men with too many big ass egos to even have or at least initiate a conversation, ridiculous. Stop being little insecure boys, and get this damn thing done.

  13. Big Blue 66
    9:20 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    it will be like everything else with Williams, a moving target on what is “required” to get it approved, by the time they go to the GA with an individual packet, there will be something else they need to do. Its a shell game. He will say soft things like, all they have to do is XYZ and we will look at it….blah blah blah

  14. East Kentucky Infidel
    9:24 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Expecting a commitment from UK on football? You’re going to hear the same lines Bear Bryant heard.

  15. WildcatWilly
    9:32 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Great job today Matt. I thought your interviews with both Mitch and David were very informative because there seemed to be a lot of misinformation out there about Commonwealth Stadium and why we can get the funding to make the renovations necessary to help compete in the SEC. I think your next interview should be with Eli just to get his position since the onus now really lies with him. Have been a UK football fan my entire life and would love to see the stadium get a much needed facelift. Really bad when visiting fans come into the stadium and laugh at the facility and say “nothing will ever change”. Out of the 12 (now 14) member institutions, we have the 10th or 11th worse stadium in the league. We will NEVER even have a chance to compete unless that changes. Have already renewed our season tickets and will be there again supporting the program for another year, but it does get more difficult as the years go by when you don’t see any commitment from the Athletics Department to get serious about getting these renovations done. If I am the AD, I would have talked to David Williams years ago and would not have stopped until I got results. Mitch really should be the lead man in this and that makes me truly wonder about his commitment. Keep pressing Matt until something gets done and great job!! Go ‘Cats!!

  16. Levi
    9:33 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    11. If nothing happens then nothing will happen.

  17. JBR
    9:37 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    I’m on the fence about Williams saying he would support it…one one hand, politicians are notorious for saying what people want to hear for votes, and not following through, but on the other, it is David Williams and he is arrogant enough to normally say whatever jibberish is going through his mind…so the jury is out on that one.

    With regards to the expansion overall…3 years ago would have been the perfect time to do this, while our program was on the upswing…since Joker has taken over…well, hard to sell an expansion to the public when people like me and many, many others are bailing on their season tickets because we have a horrible coach and program. If we had a guy with some promise, I would keep them, but it is hard to justify spending money on something as pathetic as Joker puts on the field. If we get an expansion, how about a new coach and have a big re-birth of UK football!

  18. Juan4UK
    9:39 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    UK feels and probably does need to bundle Academic facility funding with Athletics request for bonding. This is just way too simple for this one interview with Williams to be the answer. He gave an answer that he knows puts the onus on UK. He is a Politician and he would not have committed to something that he has been against unless he knew that it could not happen due to angles that have not yet come to light. Tread carefully Matt.

  19. SECsports
    9:39 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Incredible information uncovered. Thanks, Matt. We now get to see just how “serious” UK is about improving their Football program.

  20. Me
    9:44 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Levi – That resonse could be the worst ever. At least you didn’t say “because.” UK will waste tons of cash on a stadium renovation and we will still have a bottom tier SEC team.

    Mitch better ask for an extra 10 Mil per year for a good coach, cause that is the ONLY way to actually turn around this Titanic.

    Remember, uofl has the newest and nicest (debatable) arena in basketball, yet they are out recruited by plenty of teams with old, small, and terrible arenas.

  21. old_school
    9:45 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Matt – The interviewer’s job is not to be “confrontational” but to engage the interviewee in conversation.

    I listened to the podcast tonight after reading comments earlier today and Williams remained calm and polite despite your amatuerish performance as ‘journalist.’

    Confrontational journalism may be fun to watch on the John Stewart comedy hour – but it’s not an effective way to get serious news.

    I fear for our nation that has grown up getting news from sources like Stewert, Colbert and Bill Maher – all who hide behind their ‘humor’ to take partisan potshots while lulling lazy masses of Americans into thinking they’re being ‘informed.’

  22. Cousins Fake Tooth
    10:02 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    I say we renovate our coach first.

  23. BigBen
    10:08 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    I dont want any help from Williams. Hes an idoit.

  24. jp7
    10:12 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Barnhart hasn’t talked to Williams because he knows Williams can’t be trusted. He only told Matt what he wanted to hear. You can be sure Williams has his own agenda and that is the only thing he will support.

  25. ukcat1
    10:16 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Exactly what facility change will help our football program? I know they want a recruiting room (which I don’t exactly know what that is) Did UK even sell all of the luxury boxes?

    Players don’t sit in the stands (which btw were not close to full in most games). We have a relative new practice facility. I thought the medical training facilities were supposed to be state of the art. Locker room?? Bathrooms? concession stands?

    Commonwealth is a facility that is going to be used 7 times a year; How much $$ should actually be spent and what will give us the most bang for the buck??

    If we had a good product, the stands would be full.

  26. bear bryant
    10:17 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Old_School – Your last paragraph is so true and spot on it is scary.

    Hey people, how the heck can people like Coach K and Billy The Kid win multiple National Championships at schools with the poor gyms they are strapped with?

  27. ukcat1
    10:48 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Fla gym is nice just small and not fancy with luxury boxes.

  28. Tomas
    10:58 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    21 and 26 kind of like people who listen to Rush Limbaugh from 12-3 and think they are being informed. He takes racist jabs and makes sexist comments. He repeatedly makes facts up and then when he is called on it by a credible news source he hides behind the “entertainer” disguise. Americans have become lazy overall when it comes to media they listen to what they want to hear. But Stewart, Colbert, and Maher are not pretending to be credible. They don’t make up facts, they make fun of current political landscape. Rush is on in almost every city in America and spills his misinformation everywhere that confuses and scares hard-working Americans.

  29. Mattius00
    10:59 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Will they put a better product in it?

  30. David Williams
    11:00 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Boy, I am a typical politician so much double speak and pointing the finger at everyone else.

  31. David Williams
    11:03 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    David Williams is a scumbag and the farthest thing from a “good politician”. That SOB is holding the state back. He said he would put the slot machines at race tracks up for a vote, but didn’t.

  32. really.....
    11:08 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    21 & 26 – the “jon stewart comedy hour” (and watching no news at all) has literally been proven to have more informed viewers than other “news” outlets.

    don’t believe me?

  33. ukcat1
    11:09 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Slot machines in commonwealth might pay for renovations. Selling alcohol might also be big revenue.

  34. Tomas
    11:29 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Actually 35 just did a good Rush Limbaugh impersonation. Take concrete facts and twist them to fit your opinion and then claim a moral superiority. Kudos to you my friend. You have a real talent of deceiving and misinforming.

  35. Scoddee
    11:31 pm May 16, 2012 Permalink

    Does the revenue (tickets, parking & concessions) from Commonwealth now, get split between UK school and UK Atheletics ? Does this dedicated bond-repaying revenue stream upset the apple cart ie cut the school’s split ?

  36. MtnCat
    12:05 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Tomas your ideology is showing. Think for yourself sometime, it will do you some good.

    Don’t hold your breath on UK’s big commitment to football. They have shot themselves in the foot so many times it’s pathetic.

  37. Jokercouldntwinonmadden
    12:23 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Glad to see that at least some people can realize the real underlying factor nose diving our football program into the crapper wears a blue wind suit and headphones and stands there with a smirk on his face on the sidelines. Crappy, predictable play calling and poor coaching produces the same results in a billion dollar facility as it does on a rural county highschool field worth a handful of beans… Embarassing losses. Let’s upgrade the coach and I can assure you it will increase revenue to provide for the facility. It’s going to be pretty sad watching the games this year on television and seeing empty bleachers all over the lower level. Please explain how that is motivating to any incoming recruits who walk into that atmosphere. Hopefully they’ll understand as well as the rest of the fan base that at least Joker is trying and cares and played his college ball here and blah blah blah the rest of the crap excuses we hear from the coaching show after a Vandy loss. Thank the Lord we’re playing SEC teams each week, because without at least one group of talent taking the field each week, we’d be scrapping for the Friday and Thursday night games like the boys in red down I-64 West just to get a crack at a televised game. Give me a hot, steel, fold out chair and a decent coach, and I’ll be ten times more likely to buy a ticket and watch a game in the rain before I sit through another Joker coached game if it were played inside the Ritz Carlton with all you can eat Wendy’s frosties and unlimited back rubs. Facilities are like exotic cars, they’re pretty to look at and can win amazing things, but it takes a driver to lead it to the finish line. Put a monkey in the driver seat and you inevitably see it crash and burn.

  38. Richie Farmer
    12:39 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Now that Dave Williams knows he cannot be elected in a statewide race he might change his views on bonding & gambling issues. Maybe this 13th century politician will enter the enlightenment period. Still behind the times but thinking about future possibilities.

  39. Bledsoe's Biceps
    5:53 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    As I feared, no straight answers from Williams. Matt, I think you got punked by believing Williams has taken a clear stance and has put the ball in UK’s court. As 13 & 18 indicate, this is just his politics da jour. You have allowed him to shift the focus/blame from himself to the UK administration. He accomplished his goal.

  40. The Dirtest of All Words
    6:51 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Calling someone a liberal where I live might get you hurt. Just saying

  41. crackerhillbilly
    7:35 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Matt’s rookie status is showing. Williams managed to spin the issue back onto UK, leave himself tons of wiggle room and get Matt to become an unwilling participant. Williams is one seriously creepy, Svengali-like character.

  42. Bigcatinva
    8:09 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    True, politicians don’t like to answer many of the tough questions, and the one who know how to play the game find a way around it as Williams did. Although, EVERY politician wants to be relected. If we (meaning Kentuckians of which I will always be but am currently living in VA) would let Williams know without a doubt next election that this IS a sticking point with his constituency. #VOTE COMMONWEALTH EXPANSION. Do what you do best Matt and get Big Blue Nation mobilized!

  43. Bigcatinva
    8:10 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    boy did I over edit that post #42

  44. Lou eaton
    8:17 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Nice work Matt. BUT remember the deal where Rupp was awarded a cadillac and Bryant a wrist watch? Things have not changed dramatically. Plus, IMO and I believe most UK fans, until we stop the good ole boy hiring for coaches it will remain same no matter what face lifts we do to Commonwealth. Can we just go after the top DIV 2 coach…this is where all the Urban Myers of the world started!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  45. obama's moving out
    8:35 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Funny, all the libs slamming posters and talking Rush. Maybe, just maybe if your president had done his JOB over the past 3.5 years there wouldn’t be all the fighting back and forth.

    Obama wants Americans to fight one another. Fact. Who was the last president to pit Americans vs Americans?

  46. Bill Dozer
    9:07 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    #45….Abe Lincoln?

  47. bmack
    9:30 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    My understanding (from KSR) is that Louisville is somehow exempted from the normal state approval process for bonding. If that’s the case, why didn’t you ask Williams why Louisville and UK are treated differently?

  48. Richard Nixon
    10:45 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    #45&46 Remember my southern strategy. All sides use the conquer by dividing.

  49. eightisnotenough
    11:27 am May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Should have expanded on where other possible of sources of dedicated revenue reside in your conversation and article.

  50. Zack
    3:28 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Williams may not be the nicest guy, but if this has his support, UK needs to do what he wants to get this done. If they do, it will be done quickly and it will be done well. David Williams rules Frankfort, that much is obvious to anyone who follows state politics. He is also the most intelligent person there and it really isn’t close. His plan makes great sense, the state does limit the number of projects that Universities do. Former speaker of the house Jody Richards told me that was the case for projects at WKU. These academic facilities will get built in time, but the stadium will produce a lot of revenue and it is pretty much guaranteed revenue. Either way, this lies with UK, Williams didn’t say anything that isn’t true, and didn’t make sense. If UK wants this done, they can get it done anytime they want.