Kentucky Football has been a cold and cruel mistress to most of the Big Blue Nation. It’s not even that it’s been bad, which, historically at least, it has been. It’s the fact that there have been moments, however fleeting, where the fan base thinks that maybe the football team has turned to corner, only to disappointed yet again. So no one can really blame the fans for being a bit skeptical at the 2013 season, to date at least. The coaches and players and UK administration have, for years, given every indication that the Cats are ready to make the leap, but time and time again, the Cats slide back down into the cellar of the SEC standings. Why now? What’s different? What has changed?
Simply put, most fans don’t appreciate how different football, especially SEC football, is from basketball. In hoops, one Jamal Mashburn or one John Wall is enough to rebound a stagnant program and return it to greatness. And even then, since Kentucky is Kentucky in Men’s basketball, the job of turning the program around isn’t as difficult as putting a team with no history on the map. There are just inherent benefits to the UK hoops program that not a lot of other teams enjoy. Likewise, with football, Kentucky is at a distinct disadvantage against its SEC brethren. Yes, Head Coach Nich Saban is on a very good run at Alabama, but there are some advantages that Alabama has that not many football schools can match. In college football, the name “Alabama” means something, thanks in part to former coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and the long list of players and other coaches that have added to the Crimson Tide legacy. Kentucky just doesn’t have that.
Now, a lot of people point to other schools that overcome this lack of history and state, “Well, if that school can do it, why not Kentucky?” And that’s a valid point. Why not Kentucky? The Wildcats have unique issues that other schools don’t need to deal with and also some advantages that the don’t. For example:
Miami (FL) – Someone pointed to me on Twitter recently that the Miami Hurricanes appeared out of nowhere in the 1980s to become college football royalty, although they are currently having a downturn at the moment. First of all, Miami is in Florida. Florida is one of the most high school football talent rich state in the union. As the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “The U” points out, the Miami leadership made a concerted effort to recruit homegrown talent, even if that meant lowering the admission standards for the university. Once those first prized recruits stayed home, it was easier to open up that pipeline for the talent-rich teams that Jimmy Johnson, Howard Schnellenberger and Dennis Erickson coached to three national titles in the 1980s. Home grown talent really helps.