It is very hard for a power conference team to have any sports on campus that rival the big dogs of men’s basketball and football. Looking around the country, I can’t find many potential options. Maybe LSU baseball being bigger than men’s basketball. Point being, most sports at major universities are playing for #3 on the popularity chart with a fanbase. At Kentucky, at least over the last 10 years, I feel like women’s basketball has held a pretty steady grasp on that #3 spot. Matthew Mitchell is an engaging personality, his teams play a fun style of basketball, and they consistently win. They have put big crowds in Rupp Arena a few times and fill up Memorial Coliseum constantly.
But after this weekend’s regionals at The Cliff and the upcoming series with Louisville, the biggest baseball happening here maybe ever, you have to start wondering whether baseball might take its place as the 3rd most popular UK sport. Now, keep a couple things in mind:
- They need to win more than just 1 year. UK Women’s Basketball has been winning for almost a decade now. Baseball at least has the fans attention but go back to a mid-level SEC program next year and you can just as easily lose that attention.
- Coach Mingione needs to continue to be a driving force behind the program. In secondary sports like baseball their needs to be a leader who fans can attach themselves to. I hope he is here for the long term and his personality gives him the possibility to be that figure people love.
- Marketing is key. When you win, that gets people attention. But they still need to be convinced to attend the games. In Louisville, free admission and cheap beer is a common marketing ploy. And it’s worked. Stands are constantly packed for mid-week games. This off-season will be huge for the UK marketing department. Can they come up with a plan to make fans come see games against Xavier on a Wednesday in April?
I am very excited for what this weekend could end up meaning for UK sports moving forward. I think there has been a pretty clear hierarchy of sports at UK and it seems we might be on verge of a shift in that hierarchy.
Would you agree?