By now you’ve surely seen the new deal between the SEC and ESPN to create the SEC Network. Additionally you have probably heard the speculation that ESPN will pressure the league to move to a schedule that features each team playing nine conference games to increase their unsightly revenues. That would mean one less out of conference matchup for each team to schedule. So, having heard about these possibilities, you have likely thought of or heard others talk about what Kentucky should do about the Louisville game.
Even during Kentucky’s best recent seasons, the Battle for the Governor’s Cup has been a key victory toward bowl eligibility. But if the SEC adds an extra matchup with Auburn or LSU to the schedule, are they really going to keep playing the Cardinals? For a while at least. The current contract currently runs through 2016, but a large change to the SEC schedule would likely take at least that long to implement. If and when that happens, the only logical choice is to end the series.
So this is the part where some of you start fuming about the very idea of Kentucky dropping the Louisville game or the visiting UL fans run to Twitter to say that Kentucky is scared to play them. That’s not what this is about. It’s always been said that Kentucky really has nothing to gain from the series, while it has aided Louisville in growing their program. That is mostly true, Kentucky gains very little when they take home the Governor’s Cup. Besides the year that Stevie got loose, UK faced an unranked Big East or Conference USA team. (Is there really much of a difference?) A loss produced ridicule at the shame of losing to a nobody. A win produced a shoulder shrug, because SEC teams are supposed to beat the unranked masses. Louisville slowly but surely built their program to the point that they were invited to join the ACC. The least desirable of future BCS leagues but a big step up from the dumpster fire that the Big East became.
It’s no secret that if Kentucky is going to be good at football they will need to build from the ground up. There simply isn’t much usable material from the past. Programs are built by winning games and going to bowls. Recruiting can only take you so far if you don’t win. Kentucky consistently plays one of the toughest schedules in the country simply by playing their conference games. If another Top 25 teams is added to the gauntlet, why would you keep playing Louisville? The Cards program was built methodically over a long period of time, much of which was spent feasting on a cupcake schedule and beating Kentucky about half of the time. Why is Kentucky expected to become great overnight?