Last we left Commonwealth Stadium, this was the scene. Thousands of blue clad Kentucky fans celebrating madly on the field after Kentucky knocked off the Tennessee Volunteers 10-7, celebrating as if their beloved Wildcats had just won the SEC Title. I should know. I was there that day and Commonwealth Stadium was loud, rocking, and that day was everything that is good about college football.
Unfortunately, that day has been overshadowed by the blatant negativity of some concerning the Kentucky football program. And I don’t subscribe to that. I am a true blue alumni of the University of Kentucky all the way and support my team with that pride whether it is winning the NCAA Championship in basketball or going 5-7 in football and ending the Tennessee streak once and for all. I am Wildcat Blue all the way.
With that said, I really don’t get the negativity that some websites and media outlets use for the upcoming season. Maybe some of them never attended UK and are not an alumni and don’t feel the pride. Maybe they just push basketball and don’t appreciate how wonderful it is to be a part of the greatest football conference ever. Maybe they think that Kentucky is truly just a “basketball school” and not a football school.
To that, I have to say that is a myth as old as Commonwealth Stadium itself. Check out these numbers from the NCAA on football attendance:
2005: (3-8) 27th nationally – 62,450
2006: (8-5) 31st nationally – 57,330
2007: (8-5) 23rd nationally – 68,824
2008: (7-6) 23rd nationally – 69,434
2009: (7-6) 22nd nationally – 69,594
2010: (6-7) 25th nationally – 66,070
2011: (5-7) 27th nationally – 60,007
As you can see, Kentucky has been in the top 30 of NCAA attendance for six of the past seven years. In other words, Kentucky is a football school as well. Those numbers are impressive as there have been no .500 seasons in the SEC and average bowls at best. These numbers are nothing to sneeze at, but the football/Joker haters point to the numbers as proof that the fans don’t like Joker Phillips.
It should also be noted that unemployment has been chronically high and the economy has been in the gutter. Last year’s drop off of 6,000 fans a game was concerning, but even great football schools like Louisville dropped 2,000 fans a game last year. And despite the 6K drop, Kentucky fell only two spots nationally, suggesting other traditional attendance powers struggled as well.
So, part of it is the economy, but 6K fans a game can’t be all economy. I am sure that fans are disappointed by the last two seasons, but staying away from games out of protest is akin to biting the hand that feeds UK athletics. So if it is pure economy keeping you away, there is a solution.