If you’re anything like me, missing the NCAA tournament and the subsequent loss to Robert Morris left you embarrassed and disappointed. My disappointment wasn’t because I really believed this team had a chance to make a run, but because it killed my excitement and rooting interest for the tournament. I think a lot of UK fans felt the normally-stable floor of March Madness fall out from under them this year.
While the NCAAT scored the best ratings in years and ended with our rival winning it all, I do think that missing the tournament has yielded some positive effects for the athletics program as a whole. My hypothesis: Going to the NIT, despite the RMU loss, has helped UK football. This may seem counterintuitive, but let me explain. After witnessing the monstrous crowd of 50,831 at the spring game yesterday, it is clear that UK fans are rabidly awaiting some sports action, and in this case it is football.
I believe that because the basketball team went to the NIT and lost, that UK fans were left sitting bored and dormant through what is generally the most exciting sports event of the year to cheer on the Wildcats. Instead of spending money, time, and energy on travelling to see the basketball team or throwing watching parties/events, we were all watching and waiting for our next chance to showcase how passionate our fanbase is.
While there has been definite excitement about UK football since Stoops was hired, the spring game showcased a new level of enthusiasm for the program. I believe that the way the basketball season ended boosted that excitement from a bubbling rumble to a big explosion. The spring game became that next ‘big event’ on the calendar for us fans since the hoops team wasn’t going to the Final Four.
Right now, we as fans are so excited and hungry. For the first time in a while, I took off this March as a fan and watched solely for entertainment. I am pretty bummed UK missed the NCAAT and that our rivals have a title to shove in our face, but I think we are all channeling our fandom into football this fall. BBN can finally show the world that we can treat football with the same importance as the elite SEC schools. It shall be a beautiful thing, and I believe that going to the NIT actually did play a part in helping the football excitement reach this new level.