This morning, John Clay reported that Kentucky’s football attendance is on pace to be the lowest since 1996, which was Bill Curry’s final season as coach. According to UK, 53,980 fans watched Kentucky lose to Western Saturday night, a substantial increase over the 48,346 that witnessed the win over Kent State the week before. However, those numbers will most likely look like gold when compared to the rest of this season’s. A slate of SEC matchups doesn’t have the same draw it once did when your team can’t even beat Western Kentucky. Samford? A merciful cupcake that may bring out those who haven’t completely given up on the team. You know, if the weather is good.
Wondering what Mitch Barnhart’s thinking right now? The athletic director took to Twitter last night to thank the fan base for their “continued support”:
Despite the result, I want to thank the #BBN for their continued support and a great atmosphere last night in Commonwealth stadium.
— Mitch Barnhart (@UKMitchBarnhart) September 16, 2012
You really want to show your gratitude, Mitch? Swing for the fences on this hire. Don’t settle for the Tommy Tubervilles or the Houston Nutts of the world. Sure, they’d probably accept the job and raise us slightly above mediocrity, but if you want to show you are committed to football, the sport which brings in the most revenue to your department, you have to aim higher. The Kentucky football fan base is at a crossroads; we’ve had darker days than this, yes, but the loss to Western felt crueler than any Bill Curry defeat. Why? Rich Brooks turned the program over to Joker with promise. Bowl games went from being the hallmark of a successful season to something we expected. Now? We’re just the third best team in our own state. What happened?
This situation sucks. It was hard not to root for Joker to succeed. Heck, right now I’m rooting for him to take his team to Florida and prove us wrong. But something just isn’t working. When you watch this team play, it’s either brilliant or abysmal; there is no middle ground. For most of the Western game, the team looked lost. That indicates there are some serious communication problems behind the scenes. Something has to change, and I’m not sure simply firing the defensive coordinator is enough.
Kentucky may never be an Alabama or an LSU in football, but it sure as hell should be able to be the best program in its own state. Yes, we are a basketball school, but the fans still want a successful football team. Kentucky’s problem under Joker hasn’t been the win-loss record; it’s the energy surrounding the program. Being at the bottom of the SEC has never been fun, especially after the small taste of success we had under Rich Brooks. It took him a while, but Papa Brooks finally got this program going in the right direction. Big wins over South Carolina and Tennessee gave us hope for the Joker era, but the utter hopelessness that hangs over the team right now after only three games is telling.
Over the next few weeks, you’re going to hear a lot of names being thrown around as potential candidates. You might as well toss out ones like Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, and John Gruden. Ain’t gonna happen. It’s just not. But the next tier? Jim Tressel, Mike Leach, Gus Malzahn, Bobby Petrino? You have to at least try. If they don’t listen, go after a young gun with passion and proven results that can help change the attitude surrounding the program. Barnhart has said that money is not an issue when it comes to hiring a coach. It’s time for him to prove it.