Mark Story: Organizers 'befuddled' by slow UK-WKU ticket sales

Ticket sales for Nashville game 'very slow'

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 19, 2011 

If you would like to attend Kentucky's season-opening football game Sept. 1 against Western Kentucky University in Nashville, that opportunity is very much available.

Scott Ramsey, the president and CEO of the Nashville Sports Council, says ticket sales for the 9:15 p.m. (Eastern time) kickoff between the Wildcats and the Hilltoppers at LP Field "are very slow, actually.

"We're a little befuddled, a little bit disappointed," Ramsey said. "We thought we'd be doing a little better at this point than we are. But there's still time."

When Tennessee opened its 2002 season in Nashville against Wyoming, the game drew a capacity crowd of 67,221. But that game was played on a Saturday afternoon.

Because of the relatively late start time of UK-WKU on a weeknight, Ramsey says his attendance goal for this year's game "is north of 40,000. And, frankly, we're tracking a little behind that right now."

In 2006, Louisville played Middle Tennessee State in Nashville on a Friday night. That game drew 32,797. A crowd of 41,037 saw UK open its 2009 season on a Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium against Miami (Ohio).

Kentucky and Western are playing on Thursday night because hometown Tennessee State has first dibs on the use of LP Field. TSU is playing a home game against Southern on Saturday, Sept. 3.

It was the decision of ESPNU to televise UK-WKU that pushed the kickoff so late at night.

The Nashville opener is technically Western's home game. WKU has announced that the first 4,000 Western students who show up at the game with a valid student identification card will be admitted free.

"That's something that they traditionally do at their home openers," Ramsey said.

With kickoff late on a school night, Ramsey said "we don't necessarily expect a big turnout from Lexington. Our marketing has been based on UK fans in Hopkinsville and Bowling Green and the western parts of the state and, of course, the Western fans, people that can make a day trip. We're still hoping that as the (game date) draws near, the sales will pick up."

Needed: A Cats slogan

Do you have a pithy phrase to characterize the 2011 Kentucky football season that would look good on a bumper sticker? If yes, Hope Hurst Lanham wants to hear from you.

For more than three decades, the start of each UK football and men's basketball season has been heralded with a free bumper sticker celebrating the Cats from Hurst Office Suppliers in Lexington. It has become a local tradition.

Last season, the football-sticker slogan was No Joke, a play off the nickname of then first-year Cats coach Joker Phillips. The basketball sticker was High CAL-iber Cats, a reference to the last name of coach John Calipari.

The stickers were a labor of love for Dick Hurst, the longtime downtown businessman. After Hurst passed away July 31 at age 76, some wondered what would happen with the stickers.

In honor of her father, Lanham says Hurst Office Suppliers plans on going forward with the bumper-sticker tradition. "I think my dad would like for them to continue, so it is my intention that we will continue with the stickers," she said.

To do that for this season, Lanham is asking the Kingdom of the Blue for help.

"Because of so much going on, we're really behind," Lanham said Thursday. "We haven't even chosen a slogan. I'm hoping fans can make some suggestions."

Lanham said she is not sure exactly when her dad started putting out UK sports bumper stickers. When she made a scrapbook for her father that featured as many of the stickers as she could find, they went back to the mid-1970s.

One of her all-time favorites, Lanham said, was Kentucky: Land of 10,000 Coaches. That one came out during Joe B. Hall's coaching era when it was oft-noted in the media that Hall tended to get a lot of coaching "help" from his fan base, Lanham said.

If you have a clever idea for this year's football sticker, you can email it to Lanham at

"Obviously, it needs to be short," Lanham said. "But if somebody has something good, we might use it. I'm hoping we can get something out soon."

Note to wiseacres: Suggested slogans will need to be "positive"; the Hurst bumper sticker is not the place for gallows UK football humor.

Reach Mark Story at (859) 231-3230 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3230, or

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