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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: The Window is Ever So Slightly Open for Mark Stoops

So I have posted on here a few times over the last 12 years, I know Drew Franklin has posted about it, and I know many fans agree.  I have argued that I would much rather Kentucky become a college football power consistently even if it meant a dip in the yearly dominance of the basketball team.  I understand that many have such a history with the basketball side of things and such a tortured history with the football team that they would find this almost blasphemous.  But my viewpoint has always been two fold: I enjoy the sport of college football more, as does the South.  And the nationwide popularity of college football (and the funds attached) far exceed those in a sport like college basketball with a much smaller overall fanbase.

Now of course over the last 50 years there was no reason to be a bigger UK football fan than basketball.  The team didn’t give you any real reason to do that.  We weren’t ever competitive in our league sans the occasional exceptional season, the stadium was crap, the weather stunk often, the talent was lacking.  But now there is an undercurrent brewing in Lexington that tells me that there might be just the ever so slightest window of opening for Mark Stoops and the UK football program to match the passion and excitement that decades of basketball success has created.  Here is why on the football side:

  1. For the first time in modern UK history, there isn’t a game on the schedule that UK can’t win.  Let’s be honest.  Even in our best years in the 1980’s and 90’s, there were games we had no chance in.  Florida and Tennessee every year.  Georgia most years.  Hell, even Louisville wasn’t winnable for a stretch there.  Now, every game is realistically winnable.  The talent gap has closed between Kentucky and the top tiers of the SEC to the point where the Cats are winning games they never have before, and in places that they never win.  Now, with that said, UK has still lost games they shouldn’t the last couples years and that stunts the excitement some.  But whereas in past years the UK fanbase was gone by November because Tennessee and Georgia were at the back end of the schedule and Florida already trounced us and there wasn’t any reason to watch, now every game is worth watching.
  2. Is an SEC East title actually winnable.  Of course it is!  Haters wanna say no but the correct answer is yes.  Nobody is saying it is likely but it has NEVER been more likely than right now.  And that fact alone can keep a fanbase.
  3. Think about the talent that has come through Lexington in just the last 3 years.  Boom Williams.  Benny Snell.  Lynn Bowden.  Countless defensive stars.  The depth of talent right now is the best in UK history and I will stand by that forever.  Fans can see that.  No longer do we just try to ride a guy like Tim Couch and a bunch of 2-stars to wins.  Now, we actually have “SEC Talent”.  Much like the basketball talent gives us chances in each NCAA Tournament.  The football talent opens up possibilities that have never existed.

Now, it isn’t just football that plays a role.  I think developments in the basketball program play a role too.  For instance:

  1. Cal’s “act” is starting to wear thin for many.  When you are going to Final Fours regularly and putting guys into the Top 10 of the NBA Draft, people will deal with almost any message the coach gives.  But UK hasn’t been to a Final Four in 5 years.  Could they have gone this season?  Maybe.  But this wasn’t a classic roster by any means and if you have to speak honestly, the odds were this team was more likely not going to the Final Four this year.  Either way, having a chance each year is nice but UK isn’t cashing in on any of those opportunities right now.  So when Cal and his shtick continue on as if it is 2015 and that “everything is OK”, fans are not stupid.  And they have been treated like they are for a while now.  And you can feel there is some frustration.
  2. The yearly exodus from Lexington has always been a sore spot for many.  But how do you stop Anthony Davis and John Wall and Karl Towns from going?  And you can’t hate on Harrisons from going either considering how accomplished they were in 2 years.  But when a team like this year loses EJ Montgomery and Kahlil Whitney to the draft, when neither guy did anything of significance and the team didn’t do anything of note either, fans start to question the system.  And I don’t see Calipari realistically changing.  I don’t think bringing in Jacob Toppin suddenly changes what the program is all about.  So if the Final Four drought continues and the Final Fours don’t return, fans will start to become prickly.
  3. The changing television landscape and what a schedule looks like matters.  People are have shorter and shorter attention spans and that isn’t changing.  Asking them to spend one day a week for 13 weeks for 3 hours to watch football is one thing.  Plus the game times are always great.  And 9 of the 12 games every year are conference or Louisville, plus a bowl.  Over 75% of the schedule is interesting.  Basketball times are crap, during the week, and the schedule is generally pathetic.  So it’s becoming harder and harder to get fans to show up in person or watch on TV when the schedules don’t match people’s personalities anymore.

Now I’m not dumb.  I will emphasize again that this window of opportunity for football to match or surpass basketball in interest in very small and requires a number of things.  It requires Mark Stoops continuing to be here, recruit at the level he has, and winning 9-10 games a year.  No small task.  And it requires basketball to continue to miss Final Fours and players to head out the door unexpectedly yearly.  Also not something that is a guarantee.  If UK starts finishing in the Top 5 and making the Final Four every other year, then basketball remains king no matter what football does.

But my argument is never in my lifetime, and likely never in any of yours, has football inched as close to basketball in popularity at Kentucky.  And as a guy who has always wished this would become a football school, I will be interested to see if Mark Stoops is able to break through that ceiling or not.  Or hell, how about we just win the SEC East and also go back to the Final Four and be an equal power in both.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

12 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: The Window is Ever So Slightly Open for Mark Stoops

  1. secrick
    10:18 am April 21, 2020 Permalink

    Yep Cal has done a awful job lately . Just pull up his record of final 4s, final 8s sweet 16 wins. Hell before he got here Ky was winning NTL. Chmps. every other year. I’m tired of him lets get someone else in here. Mark Stoops has a long way to go but he is doing great.

    • Bruce Dickinson
      9:27 am April 22, 2020 Permalink

      Before Cal got here, we hadn’t won a national championship in 10 years. We had billy Clyde. Things weren’t great.

  2. ClutchCargo
    10:25 am April 21, 2020 Permalink

    BTI, I was with you until you started implying that football success has anything at all to do with basketball success. We can absolutely have both, and there is no reason why not. Fans will show up and support a winning team, regardless if the team is playing football or basketball.

    • bkeith75
      10:32 am April 21, 2020 Permalink

      What he said ^

    • JASUN74
      8:42 pm April 21, 2020 Permalink

      Yep. I’m with bkeith75 here. What Clutch said! Lol. I’m one of many more than people think that love Football more that everything, but I also love Kentucky Basketball and Coach Cal! I do hate when he acts like fans are stupid because they’re not coach’s. I hate that shiiit! When he looks around and acts like we don’t know how the plays are ran or how to play defense. Cal, Kentucky Basketball know more than you think buddy, they’re the most knowledgeable fans in the country.

      As for Mark Stoops, he’s 100% genuine and is quickly becoming one of the best coach’s in America. He gets Kentucky fans and is running his program with class. If for some reason I had to pick, ( I don’t by the way), I’d pick Football all day long! I personally would love Kentucky Football to become a powerhouse and believe we are, we’re soo close right now and this next season is/was going to be special. The next few years will be the greatest in history for the football program and I’m tickled to death to be a fan.

      I will always love both Kentucky Basketball and Football and want both teams to be Successful, To me personally though, I just would rather win the National Title in Football. Please Football Jesus, give Kentucky a Championship before I die!! Amen! Ha!! Go Cats

  3. Righteous1
    11:17 am April 21, 2020 Permalink

    I agree that Stoops is putting UK in position to win the SEC East. I believe football is on the rise at UK and basketball is on the decline for all of the reasons you stated.
    The Cal Lovers Wolfpack will not like this article!

  4. peaches76
    11:45 am April 21, 2020 Permalink

    While our recruiting has gone to a higher level, we are still trailing the powers of our conference. The SEC is just such a hard mountain to climb. But we are gaining ground and our player development is a huge plus for us.

  5. Lyle Evans
    12:06 pm April 21, 2020 Permalink

    This piece is more about football than basketball BUT finally, a writer has captured the essence of my dissatisfaction with the Cal system. When John Wall and Anthony Davis leave, we can understand and accept it. But when Khalil Whitney and other guys who have no chance of being drafted leave to “put their name in the draft,” and we have again an almost completely new roster from top to bottom when the team was okay-to-good but very clearly not great, the absurdity makes reasonable fans think this ain’t working. Anyone can explain the sense in AD going pro; but you have to resort to amateur psychological assessments to explain guys like Whitney.

  6. mcp157
    12:20 pm April 21, 2020 Permalink

    I have been a UK football fan since they were at Stoll field. I have, for years, said that there was no reason we could not COMPETE for SEC championships. That being said we are the best tradition in college basketball history. It is hard to complete and win championships in basketball every year. Cal is not perfect, but he is damn good and a very good fit at UK. Football is on rise but it will be a cold day in hell when it eclipses basketball!

  7. BigBluSoTru
    3:51 pm April 21, 2020 Permalink

    Now he left our FB conf losing record . I’m the biggest UK homer on this planet but this article even i had to chuckle.

  8. dcforuk
    6:04 pm April 21, 2020 Permalink

    If you can somehow use the same tool that Bobby Knight uses in this video link below And make certain that both programs don’t lay eggs in the same season whereby at least one of them is dominant every year then I’m all for it!

  9. largoky
    3:26 pm April 22, 2020 Permalink

    The football program is getting better, but until we can beat the dirty vols consistently, we won’t ever have a chance to compete in the SEC East.