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Should UK Football “Hitch Our Wagon to Our Basketball Program?”

wagon hitch

Yesterday Joker Phillips took to the stage at SEC Media Days and spoke to the people who care about college football the most, the media and fans of the SEC. His comments were generally fairly mundane (it is never good when you reference your team’s GPA in the third sentence of your comments), but at one point he was asked about the relationship between UK football and its championship basketball program. Here is what he said:

“Everybody has things they want to sell in their program,” he said. “I’m selling our basketball program, okay? I would be crazy to try to fight that. I’m trying to sell our basketball program. I think it was unbelievable advertising of our logo. Every time our basketball team went to the next round, playing in the Final Four. How many times did kids see the UK interlocking brand out there? I think that’s huge. We want to hitch our wagon to our basketball program.”


It seems to me a fairly honest and straightforward answer. One can’t compete with the UK basketball team, so why not embrace it and utilize its powerful brand to the best of your abilities. However WDRB’s Eric Crawford raises a counter-argument on the notion of UK football being hitched to basketball. Crawford correctly points out that the notion of any other SEC football coach suggesting that his team is hitched to basketball would be laughable. However, Kentucky is different in terms of tradition and fan interest, so maybe UK is simply different. But Crawford notes that from a financial perspective, it isn’t even like this at UK. He breaks down the revenue between the two sports, which is worth noting. Even in a year when UK football was down and UK basketball won the national championship:


Football: $15.43 million
Basketball: $12.25 million


Football: $15.37 million
Basketball: $5.51 million


Football: $2.59 million
Basketball: $8,500 (due to city owning Rupp)


Football: $1.45 million
Basketball: $65,500


Football: $34.02 million
Basketball: $18.56 million

So from a revenue perspective, it is clear. Even at Kentucky, football is a bigger revenue generator by far than basketball. That doesn’t mean the program is more valuable (much of the money brought in through merchandising is brought in due to basketball program success but it goes to the general fund and it isn’t given credit in this calculus), but it clearly yields more annual direct revenue. So what about expenditures? Crawford notes that these are the 2011-2012 expenditures:


Football: $4.769 million
Basketball: $4.878 million


Football $14.35 million
Basketball $12.35 million

Crawford notes that for a program that brings in $34 million a year, it spends just over $14.35 million, leaving it as the funding mechanism for over $20 million in athletic revenue that it never sees. It is clear that there isn’t a school in the SEC that sees such inequities in its balance sheet for its football program. The reality is that at Kentucky, like at other schools, football pays for the other athletic programs. But at Kentucky, unlike other schools, outside forces, be they boosters or the ability to utilize revenue for bonds and facility construction, simply are not there to make up the difference.

So what is the answer? Well, Crawford suggests that UK football needs a voice to “throw more of its weight around” and stand up for the UK football program. That doesn’t just mean a change in athletic department funding (as the Athletic Department is limited in how much of its budget can be shifted anyway), but also someone who can motivate football boosters to undergo private projects for football like the Rupp Arena locker room plan for basketball. It means someone who inspires the fans and administration to believe in the program and help create facilities that can move it to a new level. Steve Spurrier said the biggest change in South Carolina football didn’t happen just because he was hired, but because at that time, the facilities were updated to be competitive.

Crawford argues that UK needs a voice who can make that happen. He is probably correct. The question that remains is whether that voice belongs to Joker Phillips, another coach of the future, or simply won’t be found as UK football continues to float along as a permanent underclass.

Article written by Matt Jones

37 Comments for Should UK Football “Hitch Our Wagon to Our Basketball Program?”

  1. Bobbysueflay
    8:04 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    So why should we care about football when the program don’t? It just a sorce of revenue.

  2. RYNO
    8:06 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Merchandising revenue-

    Basketball- 50 Million
    Football- 12 Bucks

  3. CatGrad7072
    8:09 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Yeah, hitch our FB wagon to BB and let Cal coach both. I bet he’d get more reaction form the players than Joker.
    But, then again, #1 is right.

  4. CatGrad7072
    8:11 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Oh and BTW, Joker is lost if he’s really trying to do that.

  5. ukcats
    8:15 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    we will always have a great basketball program, no matter how much money goes toward it. however in football were last in facilities, coaches salary, and in wins. basketball will always be there but wouldnt it be cool to have a football program that is winning and has a shot every year and NEVER LOSES TO LOUISVILLE

    8:18 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Here’s a simple solution to the football problem…win a game.

  7. ukcats
    8:19 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    imagine how rockin commonwealth stadium would be if we went to new years bowls on a consistant basis, that place was packed during 7 win seasons let alone a 8,9, or 10 win season. that along with a championship basketball team our program would be the envy of the nation

  8. RYNO
    8:20 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Obviously I just made up the merchandising numbers, but really, every Wal Mart and gas station in the state has about 10,000 products that have UK printed on them. Each one of the millions of UK fans has at least 3-5 UK stamped articles of clothing. Are even 10% of the people buying that stuff because of the football team? I think not. And where does all that money go? Is it included in your licensing figure? Who gets credit for the tons of commemorative/collectible National Championship publications, DVDs, and other gear? You expect me to believe that the basketball program only gets credit for $65,000 for all that stuff? Somebody needs to check their figures again.

  9. ukcats
    8:21 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    but 8 9 and 10 win seasons wont come without facility and coaching updates that the most clueless AD would understand you need to have to compete in this league. and those upgrades and improvements dont come without $$$$$$$$$

  10. dave
    8:22 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    need former (now NFL) players to give back to the skool. we need them to donate time & money & pump up the program ala jarmon

  11. NJT Wannabe
    8:23 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Shoulda been a (Dallas) Cowboy

    Kentucky won the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament yet revenue from ticket sales, tv/conference, programs, concessions, parking, royalties, and licensing all trail the KENTUCKY FOOTBALL PROGRAM. Yes, that’s right folks. The same UK Football program that is terrible and the worst in the SEC (and would be last in the Big East too according to a recent poll on This does not bode well for Kentucky. How can Coach Cal continue to want to play neutral site games when his program is struggling to raise more money than the football team? There are likely millions of reasons in Coach’s bank account as to why he isn’t feeling the pinch quite like his program. To this day, Coach Cal still has ZERO players coming in the star-studded 2013 class other than Derek Willis (who sucks and was only pursued by U of L to get Cal to waste a spot). Coach Cal has yet to come forward and give up a year of pay to help the basketball program pass the football program in revenue.

  12. RYNO
    8:32 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Read the paranthetical note- gotcha.

  13. Steve Erwin
    8:34 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Does UK basketball make money off jersey sales, if so that and other merchandising has to be a huge number and it isn’t included here.

  14. alex j
    8:36 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    I say one through ten are losers!!People get behind our programs from swimming to baseball and of course football. think positive and success will come. A good hard tackle will
    beat the number one team in the country. Don’t forget from the fans to the players we are in this together.

  15. RYNO
    8:36 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    13) See note in parenthasis below the bold statement just before salaries section- I missed it too.

  16. Coach Cal
    8:43 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    I got this basketball thing roll’n. I don’t need the added pressure of trying to pull the sorry azz football program along. I got ideas about the football team, and they don’t involve Joker – but I don’t want to be responsible for that mess. 100 years of sorry football can’t be fixed by a basketball coach.

    When I retire from coaching, talk to me about the AD job – then I’ll fix football.

  17. y2josh
    8:44 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    @11. NJT Wannabe: Football stadium has a lot more seating. Rupp is sold out every night. A lot of that space in Rupp is took up with students who get cheap tickets. Games played in Dallas and Georgia I’m guessing wouldn’t be student tickets or season ticket holders tickets, so that should = more money than playing at Rupp. That’s why I’m thinking Cal wants to play big arenas more often, but I’m just a simpleton.

  18. Context
    8:48 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    All of this is entirely misrepresenting the point that Joker was trying to make with those comments. His answer wasn’t about revenue divisions and fundraising and University support. His answer was entirely about using the basketball program as a selling point in recruiting. It’s a point that he has been making since the John Wall dance blew up all over the place.

    Look, it’s clear that Matt has an agenda against Joker as the football coach. He, and the other writers on this site, clearly believe that Joker’s tenure should come to an end with this season. That’s fine. I disagree, but I understand that many people feel that way. I simply wish that they would forthrightly admit it at this point rather than simply using every reference to the football team to hint and imply that opinion.

  19. truth
    8:51 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    We should get out of the sec. But the athletic department enjoys cashing those large welfare checks. Also, sounds like joker is a jock sniffer.

  20. Jim
    9:05 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    That makes no sense on the royalties and licensing. Basketball $65,500? Yeah, right. Do you think it was intentional that the first two football games were night games? Mitch hopes everyone will tailgate and get loaded and forget about the team the horrible coach on the field. Bring on basketball.

  21. Jeremy
    9:13 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Here is the simple fact of the matter… We spend the 2nd lowest amount in the SEC on football in terms of actual dollars and by far the lowest as measured as a percentage of athletic budget. Of course the bonding issue is a big deal… but it’s forced to be a much bigger deal because the UKAA skimps by choosing not to invest more into the program on a yearly basis or by setting aside money for potential renovations (especially given the bonding situation).

    Matt has brought up the fact that the UKAA is hamstrung by this bonding issue (I agree) and has been for a long time. My point is that the UKAA has known about the issue for a long time and all the while done nothing to set aside any funding or changed their priorities in any manner. The only reason the bonding issue has even been brought up in the last year or so is because the fans have yelled so much about Commonwealth basically becoming the Riverfront Stadium of the SEC due to neglect. Did the UKAA have so little vision as to not see this coming… or were they focused on other things?

  22. nassau65
    9:13 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    I honestly don’t see anything wrong with what Joker said. Spin it however ya want, but what he said makes sense to me.

  23. SexnNursinHomes
    9:21 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Only $4.78 million for UK basketball coaching salaries. damn nation, Gerber babies make more than that. Time buck up and give Cal the raise. This isn’t even debatable.

  24. bbmike
    9:23 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Joker answered the question perfectly. Use the bball success and any other advantage u can. Jeremy jarmon will be good at raising money if they let him.

  25. lambinated
    9:24 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    If you don’t think basketball drives the VAST majority of merchandising then I don’t even know what to say. This whole post is completely irrelevant when you take the merchandising money into account. Also the conference/TV revenue benefits GREATLY from the SEC splitting revenue equally. If it was in any way merit based our football team wouldn’t see a fraction of that money.

  26. UK f and b fan
    9:26 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    The best college basketball team in the country this past season, and the best college basketball program ever. Coach Cal calls from Puerto Rico to talk to his recruits. Your darn tooting they are hitched up. Here is what I say, I don’t give a damn what other schools in the SEC do. UK has the best sports fans that travel and support both their basketball team and their football team. Ever been to a football bowl game in recent years. Cat fans are awesome. Again, I could care less what Tennessee, Alabama, Florida or any other SEC does running their program. We are UK!

  27. CPACAT
    9:36 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    “there isn’t a school in the SEC that sees such inequities in its balance sheet for its football program” Just a quick correction. The inequity is in the income statement, not the balance sheet. The income statement inequity would show that they generate approx $34M in revenues and expend only approx $14M….a $20M inequity…Just Sayin’….

  28. big tim
    9:39 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    so when cal comes out and says somthing about gpa you act like its the greatest thing. when joker mentions it its because the season not going to be good. whats it matter if he said it first sentence or the last

  29. MtnCat
    9:39 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Get football right and watch the $$$$ roll in.

    UK ain’t got a clue how to do it right, history don’t lie.

    Human assets are your best investment and UK ain’t got very many in football.

    Any more questions?

    Quit making excuses and get the people in here who know how run a championship football program.

  30. dr catfish
    9:43 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    I want Cal to coach UK until he retires. On another note, I bet UK is the only SEC school that pays its basketball coaches more than its football coaches.

  31. Jim
    9:57 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Paying Joker more money would not make him a better coach. Not a chance. He needs to prove he can win some games, which would help if he ran a decent offense. 4-8 or 5-7 this year. Sorry!

  32. Proud Kentuckian
    10:32 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Kentucky Basketball as a business model should consider the following:

    1. Rupp Arena not having luxury suites should never be a hindrence…
    2. Current ticket holders in the lower half of Rupp Arena should pay luxury suite prices for those tickets, period. 3. If they won’t, start a sign up sheet for those who will pay luxury suite prices for tickets in the lower half of Rupp Arena. 4. After “8” minutes go by and the sign up sheet is full start a waiting list for people who will pay luxury suite prices to sit in the lower level of Rupp Arena. 5. Educate the President of the University on this most obvious business model.

    Proud Kentuckian

  33. Yabba Do
    10:44 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    Why didn’t KSR broadcast live from SEC Media Days?

  34. AlanInDC
    10:50 pm July 19, 2012 Permalink

    23… That’s what the University pays and doesn’t take into account sponsorship deals that are part of his contract. Cal blows away that 4 and change number by himself, not counting the basketball office staff and assistant coaches.

  35. UKBlue
    1:07 am July 20, 2012 Permalink

    These numbers just go to show of the mega UK donors; just because you have money & donate whatever to UK, doesn’t mean it makes you smart. UK is & will always be in a very unique & unorthodox position. UK is & will always be known for basketball, but since UK is in the SEC & the majority of the SEC TV contract is paid out because of football, football will always bring in more money. Yes basketball is of course the priority, but you must protect the item that brings in the most money being football. The mega donors (i.e. Joe Craft) may not like UK football or even care about it, but if they are as smart as they tell themselves or at least their egos tell themselves, then they will make the smart business decision & thrown a little money at the football program to protect the main money producing asset along with the other money/investments they have already made to UK.

  36. ActuallyInformedKentuckian
    10:48 am July 20, 2012 Permalink

    #32, Proud Kentuckian: Do you have any idea what current ticket holders in the lower half of Rupp Arena pay for their tickets? My family has two, and they pay $3,800 in K-Fund donation every year (before the recent increase) plus the cost of the tickets. And, they have done so since Rupp Arena opened and they got the tickets because they donated and supported the program for years when the team played in Memorial.

  37. Tampa Satchel
    2:10 pm July 21, 2012 Permalink

    One thing they failed to mention is how many donations are earmarked for basketball. A lot of donors give only for bball.

    Though funding for football is clearly an embarrassment. That mediocre team, is forced to fund the rest of the athletic department except for about $6m positive cash flow bball generates.