Things that do not usually go well together:
– Oil and water, Business and pleasure, Drinking and driving, Driving and texting, Drinking and texting, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel, Listening to someone try to eat a bowl of cereal and remaining happy, and Kentucky basketball and Kentucky football.
Don’t get me wrong…It’s not that Kentucky basketball and Kentucky football have been sworn enemies or anything of that nature. The two have existed side by side for decades, with football wavering in the shadow of the most successful and popular basketball program of all time. As with most BCS schools, attaining the status of being a football school AND a basketball school is a rare find. Not as rare as a positive comment about Aaron Flener’s “Bachelor series,” but still pretty rare.
Kentucky football is still a far cry from climbing anywhere near the same category as Kentucky basketball when it comes to success. Over the past 6 weeks since Mark Stoops’ hire though– the timing has been absolutely perfect when it comes to the current statuses of both the football and the basketball programs.
In a way, Kentucky football has been exactly what John Calipari needed. And you know what? In a way, Kentucky basketball has been exactly what Mark Stoops needed.
Kentucky basketball could lose to Gardner-Webb (sorry to bring that up) and get laughed out of the building by Vanderbilt (sorry about that, too) and people will still be consumed with it and care about the team and the program to unfathomable levels. Coming off of the high of a national championship, coupled with the early season woes and frustrations of Calipari’s young team this season– Kentucky basketball has consumed slightly less attention than usual. Again, people still care. People will always care. But the fan base seems to be more open right now than usual to placing their attention on something else as well.
What has that “something else” been? Kentucky football.
The timing has been perfect for both Stoops and Calipari. The excitement and newness wrapped up in the arrival of Mark Stoops to Lexington drew so much attention that we’ve all had a little less time to focus and beat ourselves up over the early struggles of this Kentucky basketball team. The attention that usually would be solely focused on Archie Goodwin’s no-look, fall away lay-ups and questionable decision-making has also been sprinkled in other directions– such as following Kentucky football recruiting news, or figuring out ways to make “Air Raid” alarms to wake you up in the morning (I’m looking at you, Drew Franklin). Kentucky basketball has benefited from having some of the heat and attention spread in other areas early this season while the Cats were (and still are) solidifying their identity.
On the other side of the equation, Kentucky football and Mark Stoops have also benefited from the early struggles of the basketball team. No matter who the new coach was for Kentucky, people were going to be interested. Mark Stoops and his early recruiting success, energized coaching staff and exciting brand of play, have stepped in and provided some much-needed bright spots on otherwise troubling days following losses or less than excellent play on the basketball court. The timing has been perfect for the football program as well, taking off on a new journey with a new coach during a basketball season that has been fairly average so far.
If you don’t think the timing has been important, imagine if Mark Stoops had been hired at this point last season. Kentucky basketball was on a collision course with the national championship from Day 1. Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the apple of every Kentucky fans’ eye. Three goggles were being thrown, auto-lobs were being flushed, Terrence Jones glamour shots were being floated around, etc. Kentucky basketball dominated not only the local sports stories, but also the national college basketball scene as well. Even though a hire like Stoops still would have been a great one for Kentucky, would we have paid nearly as much attention? Would we be quite as excited, or would we have a hard time ripping any of our attention from one of the most entertaining and pleasing college basketball teams, with some of the most likeable players Kentucky has ever seen?
Timing is everything in life, and not everything goes together well all the time. But for the moment, Kentucky football and Kentucky basketball have both helped one another— whether they would like to admit it or not.