The theme for this upcoming football season for Mark Stoops is almost certainly consistency. The ability to keep the program at or near the level set by last year’s 10 win season. And while 10 wins might be quite a leap for this team in 2019, I think UK should be competitive in each and every game this year, and that includes Georgia. Gone should be the days of 4-touchdown defeats and embarrassing efforts. Gone should be the days where teams run all over our defense and we can’t complete a pass. This program should be to the point where every opponent respects you.
But the reality is that historically, UK football has no respect. So how can that reputation change? I think we can look at a school just east of Kentucky. I think the model has already been set by Virginia Tech.
For people under the age of 30, we view Virginia Tech as a college football power. They are consistently in the Top 25, have flirted with national titles, and are always considered a top team in the ACC. But for those older, that wasn’t always the case. In Frank Beamer’s first 6 years at Virginia Tech (1987-1992) the Hokies went 24-40-2. They did not make a bowl in those 6 seasons. In today’s world, Beamer would have long been fired.
But Virginia Tech stuck with Beamer and in 1993, the Hokies went 9-3 and won a bowl. Think what Kentucky did in 2018. But it wasn’t just a one year burst for Beamer. They followed up that season with an 8-4 year in 1994. And then the program really took off in 1995, with 10 wins. Ten wins more in 1996. And by 1999, the Hokies were in the national title game. They did not have a losing season again in Beamer’s tenure, which ended in 2015. They made a bowl in every season. They won their half of the ACC five times. And let’s not act like that conference was easy. Tech played in the Big East when Miami was an absolute power. The play in the ACC with Florida State and Clemson. Nobody is claiming it is the SEC but the top of that league has consistently been great and Virginia Tech found itself in the mix constantly.
So what’s the point? I think my biggest point is 2019 is HUGE. UK can not take a step back this season. Virginia Tech burst through with 9 wins in 1993 and never looked back. They won at least 7 games every year for the next 22 years. They never missed a bowl. And when the stars aligned, they fought for conference and national titles. Why can’t we do that? If we can follow up 10 wins last year with another 8 or 9 this year, this program begins to solidify itself within this conference. Drop back to 6 or fewer and that chance at respect might go out the window.
Virginia Tech was the Kentucky of the Big East in 1992. They became a national power in a matter of 3-4 years. Why can’t UK do the same?