Kentucky’s athletics director is speaking out after the SEC announced a change in schedules this fall.
Searching for alternatives to continue playing football during the coronavirus pandemic, the league approved a ten-game schedule limiting all games to conference opponents. The season will now kick off at the end of September.
“Our adjusted schedule puts us in the best possible position to play the 2020 football season,” athletics director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are excited to focus as a football program and an athletics department on preparing to kick off the season on Sept. 26.”
By eliminating all nonconference opponents, Kentucky will not have an opportunity to extend its win streak to three in the Battle for the Governor’s Cup.
“I fully support the SEC’s decision to move to conference-only games, though we are disappointed we won’t have the chance to compete with Louisville for the Governor’s Cup this season,” Barnhart said. “That series means a great deal to the Commonwealth and we look forward to working with Louisville to continue the series in seasons to come.”
Mark Stoops echoed Barnhart’s statement.
“I’m glad there is a plan in place so we can move forward with preparations for the season,” Stoops said. “I understand and support the decision to begin on September 26. Everyone would like to play a full schedule, including our rivalry game with Louisville, but this timing and format gives us our best opportunity to adjust to these unique circumstances.”
Along with the Louisville game, Kent State, Eastern Illinois and Eastern Michigan have been wiped off the schedule. The three schools were set to make $1.75 million, $500,000 and $350,000, respectively. Kentucky might not be on the hook for the more than $2.5 million tab. Most contracts with nonconference opponents include clauses that void the contract if there’s a change in schedule format. By eliminating all non-conference games, the SEC is not discriminating one foe for another. This legalese may have been an incentive to eliminate rivalry games by saving athletic departments millions as budgets shrink during the pandemic.