With bowl eligibility requirements thrown out the window this college football season, teams with losing records remain in contention for postseason bids, including the Kentucky Wildcats.
Despite boasting a 3-6 record with just one game to go in the regular season, Kentucky is projected to land a bowl bid, with the Music City Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Gator Bowl, Birmingham Bowl and Gasparilla Bowl seen as potential options in the latest run of weekly projections.
But will Kentucky even accept a bid if one is extended? UK head coach Mark Stoops says it’s up in the air.
“I am not sure. I really haven’t addressed that yet. I need to visit with our team,” Stoops said Monday afternoon.
Unsurprisingly, the comments were met with immediate criticism, as fans on social media, message boards and comment sections all blasted the idea of skipping out on a bowl if the opportunity presents itself. With the possibility of adding practice reps for young talent and the opportunity to see departing seniors one final time, it’s a can’t-lose situation for all football programs, at least on the surface level.
When asked about the postseason situation during his call-in show Monday evening, Stoops clarified that his desire is to participate and hopes his team feels the same way, but it’s more complicated this year than most.
For starters, the team has not been able to see their families and have been “stuck” in their dorms since they arrived on campus in June. When you factor in Kentucky’s recent battle with COVID-19, one that has wiped out as many as 27 people inside the program, safety is something to factor in, as well.
“I’m just not prepared to answer that question right now,” Stoops said. “Of course I want to go and hopefully our team does, but there are a lot of circumstances to look at. What are they going to allow people to do? Are these players allowed to go and enjoy themselves? They’re already stuck here by themselves in their dorm rooms right now.
“These players have been here busting their tail since June, haven’t seen their family, can’t go out, can’t do anything. Fortunately for us, we’re able to wrap up our season now, then we’ve got to bring them back. I have no idea, I’m just not prepared to answer that.”
In an ideal situation, one that would allow players to have a bit more freedom at the bowl site and the team having the coronavirus outbreak under control, Stoops would love to go. But until he has more clarity on the situation and speaks with the team following UK’s battle with South Carolina on Saturday, he isn’t ready to confirm any postseason plans.
Right now, the focus is on the Gamecocks.
“I want to go, yeah, and I hope our players do, but I want to see what it looks like,” he said. “We’re getting annihilated with COVID right now, so hopefully we can work our way through that. I’m concentrated on winning this game.”
Kentucky vs. South Carolina will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET at Kroger Field, with the game airing live on the SEC Network.