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Football Program Benchmarks


Like it or not, the growing, disgruntled chorus emanating from the Big Blue Nation is #rising against Joker Phillips and staff. Coach Phillips countered that sentiment on Monday, noting that his club was “2-1 not 0-3.” Run Joker’s statement through Google’s PR Spin Translator and it reads: “We beat the #165 and #127 ranked teams in the country, but lost to the #54 ranked team. Relax fans, we’re ranked #79, so we beat who we were supposed to, and lost to who we were supposed to.” (Rankings via

A majority of Kentucky fans are satisfied with seasons where Kentucky beat the teams it was supposed to beat and dropped the games it was supposed to drop, so long as Kentucky usually won the games in between those two classifications. The underlying assumption is that Kentucky’s average RPI will continually rise, classifying fewer and fewer regular season games as “should lose.” Indubitably, this is an oversimplified way to measure program growth and chart realistic fan expectation.

A more reliable way is to set honest parameters for managing fan perspective and expectations. In order to do this, we must start by determining which institutional programs should serve as Kentucky’s benchmarks. In other words, what teams do we compare ourselves with?

Let’s start with the factors that the university cannot directly control. Kentucky has two cities in the top 100 TV markets, Louisville (#50), and Lexington (#61) and according to 247WallStreet, Kentucky is the eighth Poorest State in the union, the second Most Miserable State, and the Worst Run State. ESPN lists the state of Kentucky as the 35th best high school football-recruiting base, despite the presence of the current #1 high school football team in the country (Louisville Trinity).

As far as factors Kentucky can directly control (loosely): UK’s endowment is $778 million and the UK football program ranked #19 in profit by sport generating $17,984,848 in 2010. UK was ranked 124th in most recent U.S. News National University Rankings.

Initially, it may seem reasonable to just list the twelve existing SEC institutions as benchmarks, but given the diverse (and unfavorable for Kentucky) home state recruiting bases inherent in the southeastern region, it’s more reliable if we generate our own list based on the above factors. I started with the twenty-five states with the worst high school recruiting bases, and chose fifteen schools from those states with factors similar to those of UK. Below are my suggested benchmarks, with current RPI in parenthesis, ranked in order by high school recruiting base and in the cases where multiple schools came from the same state, the program with greater football program profit is listed first:

1. Ole Miss (111)
2. Mississippi State (32)
3. Iowa (46)
4. Boston College (131)
5. Arizona St. (29)
6. Arkansas (13)
7. West Virginia (15)
8. South Carolina (10)
9. Clemson (36)
10. Oregon (12)
11. Louisville (54)
12. Kansas (92)
13. Kansas St. (50)
14. UConn (66)
15. Boise St. (4)

Bear in mind that over the next few weeks, we will break this list down and compare each school’s program with Kentucky to determine just how far off the mark our expectations are (if at all). We will compare factors like overall recruiting, player development (NFL players drafted), and program spending by player, among others. How would you change this list? What factors do you think are applicable? Oh, and #freeAaronBoyd

Article written by Tyler Montell

26 Comments for Football Program Benchmarks

  1. litig8tr
    1:12 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    I am sick and tired of the poor recruiting base being used as an excuse for our mediocrity. When one thinks of recruiting hotbeds, here are some that do NOT come to mind:


    Yet all of these schools have turned around moribund programs.

  2. Brian
    1:16 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    So… Louisville to the SEC???

  3. bubbles
    1:19 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    #1. Its not just the state itself but what it borders..oregon gets alot of its recruits out of California. We border cincy and we still dont get those players. Until then we are always garbage.

  4. Blue
    1:20 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    They have this new thing for benchmarking (measuring) success in sports. It’s called a scoreboard and it’s all the rage with the kids these days.

  5. FinjaDave
    1:20 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    INDUBITABLY?????? WTF?????

  6. Bg Cat
    1:21 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    Looks Like Wv And South Carolina Are Doing Ok With Poor Recruiting Bases. It Can Be Done.

  7. Blue
    1:23 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    #5 lol

  8. Joke
    1:30 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    This blog is a joke. Going into last Saturday every writer on this site says UK is better & we WILL beat UofL. Now, all I hear is beating who we are suppose to beat (WKU & CM) and lose (UofL) to who we are suppose to lose too…just bc they are 25 spots lower than UofL in the RPI…stupid argument. Also, Trinity #1 HS football program…only found that in 1 poll (US Today). I’d rely on more credible poll ESPN, MaxPreps, etc.

  9. Al's IndiCats
    1:34 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    OK here’s my look on Kentucky being the worst run state. I’m not really sure about this for had S and P deleved farther into it, California would have had to be somewhere close to the bottom. They have one the highest unemployment rate in the country, not mentioning they have THE highest rate of non tax paying residentuals. (Illegals). The tax rate of the meridian tax payer in that state is 39% of anyone making over $180,000.00.
    If it wasn’t for agriculture, Ca. would be more in the red than they are now. If they do have anything in their favor it’s swimming pools, movie stars, and Govenors that knock up their extreamly ugly maids, but won’t pay to have that “ahem” problem taken care of.

  10. Joke
    1:35 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink


  11. Kernel Sanders
    1:43 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    “Worst high school recruiting bases”? Based on what? Where did you get that info? Ole Miss and Miss St benefit from highly talented JUCO programs in the state, regardless of HS football. Arkansas has no other school in state to compete with to divide the HS talent (sorry Ark St). Is it easier for WVU to recruit regionally to compete in the BE than it is for UK to compete in the SEC? possibly. Have to look at more factors than HS recruiting base. For instance, look at what FL boosters inject in the program with a state population much larger than KY vs. what UK boosters give.

  12. My Gator is Hungry
    1:54 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    Benchmark, SEC. Been like that for long time and unless they kick us out for impersonating a football team will be for a while.

  13. worstrunstate
    2:01 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    We are poorly run state because we are so divided. 120 counties equals 120 small local governments. 120 county commissioners, 120 sheriffs, 120 divisions at the base.
    On another note Benchmark bourbon is one of the best value bourbons around.
    Benchmark= Value on the rocks
    Beam= Mix with coke
    Woodford, Makers, Buffalo Trace= pay more and get more neat or on the rocks.

  14. Montell
    2:04 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. I never said this excuses that UK lost, just this whole “2-1” argument is
    garbage. RPI is relevant because Media and Coach polls are limited to the top 25 teams. #10 is right, that list is over four years old. I just haven’t found any evidence that my list should change. Further, this is not an excuse generator, just a measure on how similarally situated schools are performing. And you’re being unreasonable about USA Today’s hs football rankings… Thanks for reading, this is fun.

  15. marty moore
    2:08 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    13 much agreed, been a benchmark man for years…… smooth

  16. Justin G.
    2:12 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    This is the biggest joke ever! 3, where does Tennessee, and UL get theirs? There highschool football is like Kentucky. Yet, these schools invest in their programs! Louisville, does not even have the state’s fan support, but they go down to Florida to get recruits, and do. UK should be able to go into southern Ohio (Cinnci), but they do not! Heck, does Boise St. sit back and make EXCUSES for their expectations? Heck, No!!!!!! UL, did not even sell out their stadium, and they still charged forward with upgrades!

    The difference between these programs and UK, is that the they are trying to make an atmosphere for success, while UK is milking the 19th most profitable program, and Top-25 attending fan-base in the country! On top of all of that, the admin points their fingers at the fans, when it is purely the product on the field that is atrocious, and the admin doesn’t want to do anything about improving it! Why? Because we support feed them!


  17. STEVE!
    2:16 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    I love this site, but KSR seems to be transforming into shills and Press Secretaries for Joker and the football program. Now the spin seems to be “We have too many obstacles to overcome. We can’t be competitive.” How about running theses same parameters for basketball and see who our benchmarks should be? I’ll bet theoretically we would be expected to be ranked somewhere around 79 for basketball, too. Maybe coaching makes a difference? The difference is we TRY to succeed in basketball and don’t accept excuses, whereas in football we try to make the fans THINK we are trying to succeed.

  18. STEVE!
    2:20 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    16 – Amen, brother. Is Alabama a populous state, with major TV markets and a lot of wealth? I think not, but that state has produced the last tow National Champions.

  19. STEVE!
    2:21 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    “two”, not “tow”

  20. tom
    2:33 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    I am not satisfied with just beating the teams we are supposed to beat. That is medicrity and I’ve seen more than enough of that in my lifetime of rooting for KY football.

    SO I disagree with your assumption that mediocrity is sufficient for most UK fans.

  21. HighSchoolCoach
    2:43 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    #8…The same ESPN people who ranked John Wall # 5? ESPN is the most unreliable of sources period on most all rankings. Wish I knew why, they are the worldwide leader! UK’s record the last 30 years prove that they are better when the state produces an unusual number of top level talents. Which happens every three or four yeas. Look at the rosters. When those kids stay in state at UK, good things happen every few years. Facts are facts. All the top programs have a top recruiting base in state or have a good population base in a bordering state from which to poach/supplement a player or two. (Spare me the Boise ST argument) Boise is a three or four loss team every year in any BCS conference outside the Big Least). UK should be a 8-4 team every other year based on that rationale.

  22. oldkentucky
    3:46 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    I appreciate this article. Thank you.

  23. matt
    5:14 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    One major reason that we are not competitive is the University and Athletic Dept. are more than happy to keep UK football profitable instead of reinvesting that money back into the program. Per your link UK basketball reinvests roughly 2/3 of revenue while the football team athletic dept reinvest less than 1/3 of football revenue. Until the athletic dept is willing to invest in football we will only get the results we’re currently getting. Let’s face it…having a winning football team is not a priority to our University or the Athletic Dept.

  24. Oliver Simmons
    9:09 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    You suck. You posted a link for a 2006 article. Get out of here.

  25. Montell Blows
    10:38 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    Montell, you suck. Just stop. Now.

  26. Montell Blows Goats
    10:39 pm September 20, 2011 Permalink

    Seriously, this guy blows goats.