I have always argued that Kentucky football fans are actually some of the most “loyal” in the country because, despite a 35-40 year history of minimal success, the fans continue to show up to games and support the team in most instances. It’s easy to support Alabama football when you win 10+ games a year. It’s a lot different to support a team that wins 2-8 games a year. And for the amount of wins, Kentucky football fans probably support the team as a greater level than most elite programs. Which made me wonder why/how the football team has been able to hold a decent level of support over the years. And I came to this conclusion: IT HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH WINS.
That’s right, I would argue that supporting the football Cats over the years has had very little to do with winning. What it does have to do with is:
1) STYLE OF PLAY
-Hal Mumme had 4 of the most well-supported and “exciting” seasons in UK history. He went 20-26 in his UK career. But the team put up huge numbers of points on the board and play a brand of football that was fan-friendly. It still didn’t win huge, and it didn’t beat Tennessee, but to UK fans it didn’t matter, because every week was a show. Every week was a crapshoot, and every week was must-see TV.
2) THE QUARTERBACK
-People has lost interest in UK football when Mike Hartline was quarterback. He never endeared himself to the fans, and Morgan Newton has lowered that bar even more. Andre Woodson started slowly in his career but came to become a legend. Tim Couch was the most loved UK player in history and went 12-11 in his career. Lorenzen went 15-31 in his 4 years as the starter and the fans still loved him. A big arm and a personality seems to be more important than wins. Could Drew Barker come to have that kind of following even without big wins?
3) THE LOSSES
-This is where it gets quirky. I would argue it’s how competitive you are in LOSSES than the actual wins. Kentucky fans lose interest when you lose to Vanderbilt. They lose interest when you lose to Ohio. They GAIN interest when you are competitive with Florida and Georgia. Yes, winning those games is incredibly exciting and the more desirable result. BUT, Kentucky fans have accepted the games against the top SEC teams as losses. It’s sad, but that’s a fact. What they do not accept is embarrassing performances in those games. Playing Auburn/Tennessee/Georgia within 7 points on the road in the same year would gains interest. Kentucky fans don’t care if they are SEC powerhouses in football. All they want is to not be a laughingstock. They don’t want to be a punching bag. They don’t want to be Vanderbilt.
So, there you go. Mark Stoops, you need to play a style of football that’s exciting. And you need to be competitive in each and every game. You can win 6 games and go to the Music City Bowl and make the fans happy. But you can’t do it the way they did it last year. You can’t do it sleepwalking.