Former UK football coach Rich Brooks recently made statements that the athletic department at Kentucky does not put enough emphasis on the improvement of the football program. He even went as far to say that renovations that were promised to him during his tenure still haven’t reached fruition. The topic seems to return every year and many see the root of the problem is men’s basketball versus football despite schools such as Ohio State, Florida, and Texas proving over recent history that both programs can flourish simultaneously.
UK has been, and always will be, known for their men’s basketball program, and deservedly so. Final Fours, National Championships, legendary players, and polarizing coaches have earned them that prestige. But schools shouldn’t have to limit themselves to one premier program. Basketball doesn’t need to take a backseat, or even a reduction in finances, in order for the football program to further succeed.
There is even a myth that the football program doesn’t generate enough interest to earn the right to complain. Yet Kentucky continually ranks in the top 25 nationally for attendance. While some could argue that the SEC houses some of the most devoted fans that will travel anywhere to see their team compete. This may be true, but not all schools have the passionate fan bases as Tennessee or Alabama, and Commonwealth Stadium is quite small compared to the other schools who rank in the top 25. The approximate 70,000 capacity pales far in comparison to the six digit houses that are filled every Saturday.
Recruiting is the life blood of any collegiate sport and an improved recruiting room is one of the promises that went unfilled to Papa Brooks. It may not seem like a big issue, but the first impression is always important. The recruiting room many times is where recruits will leave parents while they are taken for private conversations on their visits. As you can see in the photo below, it’s not a surprise that Brooks would have wanted to improve such an important part of the program.
Commonwealth Stadium was fortunate to receive funding for a new sound system and video boards. They have both long been criticized for years. However, the new ribbon boards that run along the sidelines have replaced the area that was once occupied by the Ring of Honor. Must we sacrifice one of the few glimpses into the history of the football program in order to have small screens that mostly display advertisements? Granted they did hang flags at the top of the stadium to still recognize the legendary players and coaches, it just doesn’t have the same aura.
Progress does seem to have been made and an overturn can’t be expected overnight. Mitch Barnhart does seem to have intent to make improvements when previous athletic director’s looked at football as nothing more than an afterthought. Will we see championships in Lexington for something other than men’s basketball? Only time will tell.
‘Til the battle is won!
Topics: Mitch Barnhart Kentucky AD, Renovating Commonwealth Stadium, Rich Brooks Kentucky Football