The countdown for gamedays in the Bluegrass is officially on: there are just 10 days until first kickoff of the season. Except, for me, that’s not true. For me and hundreds – if not thousands – of my peers, there are 17 days until our return to Kroger Field. How could that be?
I’m waiting an extra week for college football because I am a woman who attends the University of Kentucky and chooses to participates in the school’s Greek system. Yes, that is a choice, and I’m totally transparent about that. I did choose to go through sorority recruitment as a freshman, and four years later, I’m still choosing to proudly “wear my letters” on campus. But choosing to join a group of empowered women for personal, professional and philanthropic reasons and having a passion (and, for me, a profession) rooted in sports are not mutually exclusive. Believe it or not, it’s possible to choose both, as I was able to do during my first two years as a Wildcat. Now, that’s not the case.
Let me back up. Last year, UK changed the sorority and fraternity recruitment schedules to allow incoming freshmen more time to participate in freshman orientation-related activities. Previously, both recruitment and freshman orientation occurred before the first day of school. Perhaps separating the two is a good idea in theory, but the new schedule means UK’s men and women must spend their first few weekends back on campus entangled with an assortment of mandatory “rush” events, many of which last the entire day. The same rules apply for UK’s incoming freshmen who have decided to participate in Greek life.
Although both fraternities and sororities on campus saw a change in their recruitment schedules, only the women’s schedule presents a conflict with the first football game of the season. On the men’s side of things, there are no mandatory events conflicting with the game. As a young woman who grew up on sports, is pursuing a career in sports journalism and who bleeds blue just as fiercely as all of my male counterparts, I’m understandably upset. And you should be too.
As frustrated as I am that I’ll personally have to miss the opening game of the season, the situation is worse for the students who will be the most excited for the year’s first kickoff – the incoming freshmen. Many of them have never been to Kroger Field; they haven’t been able to cheer on the Cats in person, to see the fireworks following a touchdown, or to experience the proud call of a “first down, Kentucky!”
There are over 3,600 women currently involved in UK’s Greek Life, according to the university, and nearly 1,400 incoming freshmen have signed up to join this year. Combined, that’s 5,000 women who are not allowed to attend Kentucky vs. Toledo. This is just another way the university is making it harder for students to support our team.
The current recruitment schedule is creating an opening-game environment that purposefully excludes a portion of the population, specifically a part of the student section’s population. It’s a noon game against a team that finished with a 5-3 record in the Mid-American Conference last year. Why is the university making it harder to fill the stadium, rather than easier?
Thanks to the upward trajectory of the UK football program and the excitement felt throughout the BBN for the start of a new season, I’m still optimistic about attendance for the Wildcats’ opening game, of course. I hope Kentucky comes out and crushes Toledo in 10 days. I just wish I could be there to see it.