Yesterday we saw Kentucky step up and make a big boy move in football by hiring Mark Stoops. Rumors are that he wants to bring some of his Florida State colleagues with him to Lexington. It’s a very exciting time to be a Wildcat football fan, it’s been over a decade since the Big Blue Nation was this excited about a coach. Mitch Barnhart made the effort he alluded to in his letter following Joker’s dismissal. It’s a great start but more needs to be done. On ESPN’s College Football LIVE, the hosts alluded to the fact that Stoops likely required some promises regarding spending and infrastructure before taking the job. Here are some things we should look for in the near future:
- Assistants- This is Stoops’ first rodeo as a head coach and he is going to need some help. That’s not an indictment of Stoops, it’s just the way these things work. The scuttlebutt is that he wants to bring some of his FSU buddies (like OC James Coley) with him, and they won’t be cheap. Kentucky will have to pay up to get some solid coaches in here.
- Recruiting Money- By now everyone has seen the comparison of Joker’s recruiting budget to Big Blue Madness, it’s a good bet that that ratio will change by next year. And you all know Madness won’t lose any money. If Kentucky is going to sign the kind of athletes that will that everyone wants, they will have to spend some money.
- Marketing- This mostly applies to the Blue/White Spring game. Kentucky was dead last in spring game attendance last year and it wasn’t even close. Even Vanderbilt drew more fans to the stadium in the spring. Admittedly the weather was a factor but not so much as UK’s overall lack of promotion. The game was scheduled at the same time as Opening Day for Keeneland and no one knew anything about it, even those of us who cover it, until 2 weeks before the event. That needs to change. Similar deal for Fan Day.
- Facilities- Kentucky doesn’t have bad facilities, but not bad isn’t good enough in the SEC. Especially not for the school who has spent the least on them in the past decade. The good news is that it appears the ball may already be rolling here, it has been rumored for months that UK was going to approach the state to request $100 million in bonding capacity to upgrade athletics facilities, with as much as $70 million going to football upgrades. Recent changes in Frankfort are expected to make it easier for UK to get approved. It was also leaked that UK boosters received a packet detailing athletics improvements that the university planned and asking for donations. Included in the football portion were a recruiting room, more box suites, a club level, improvements to the press box (we need it) and general upgrades to the stadium. Also included were upgraded to the Nutter training facility. That sounds pretty promising.
- Fan Support- Judging by the initial reaction, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. An overwhelming majority of the fanbase is excited about Coach Stoops. Because of where Joker Phillips ended and because he is from outside the program, Stoops will get the “honeymoon” period that Joker never did. Season tickets will go back up. Fans just need to be patient, as there will be growing pains with installing a new system and player defections etc.
So there you have it folks, if Kentucky puts the money and effort forth in those five areas there is no reason to believe that UK can’t compete with the other teams in the SEC. Mitch Barnhart told us in his letter that Kentucky will compete for SEC titles and he delivered on step one of getting there. Now he has to follow through with the commitment to football. If he doesn’t it is your job as a fan to take note and remind him of it if need be. This is not to create any ill will toward Mitch, but to remind fans that this is a process and completing one step and stopping doesn’t fix anything.