Kentucky football coaching hires surrounded by more hoopla these days

Herald-Leader Staff WriterDecember 8, 2012 

  • Commonwealth Stadium attendance

    Game Announced Actual Difference

    Kent State 48,346 37,000 11,346

    Western Kentucky 53,980 43,174 10,806

    South Carolina 49,810 35,086 14,724

    Miss State 49,498 29,927 19,571

    Georgia 54,553 33,420 21,133

    Vanderbilt 44,902 18,885 26,017

    Samford 46,749 20,930 25,819

    Totals 347,838 218,422 129,416

Three Kentucky cheerleaders flanked Bear Bryant as he was welcomed to UK's campus as head football coach in 1946.

Fraternity and sorority members made modest posters.

Bryant spoke to the crowd wearing a cardboard "hoss shoe" around his neck, vowing to keep the "horse collars" from following the school's name on the scoreboard.

Bryant vowed to serve the university "faithfully and loyally."

Oh, how the pomp and circumstances have changed in welcoming ceremonies for head football coaches at Kentucky.

When Mark Stoops was announced as Kentucky's next head football coach on Sunday, there was a huge celebration at the Nutter Field House, which university officials report cost around $40,000.

In two days, UK was able to put together a welcoming ceremony/news conference unlike any I've ever seen.

It included cheerleaders (but way more than three), dancers, both mascots, the Kentucky band and 500 or so former football players and high rollers.

"That was us saying that this is a big deal, that Kentucky football is a big deal," said Jason Schlafer, the UK associate athletic director who was responsible for putting the event together. "Our football program is valuable."

Other amenities included getting a giant crane to move the Wildcat banner from the side of Commonwealth Stadium to the middle of the indoor facility. It served as the backdrop for the celebration, which also included a concert quality audio system, a fog machine, a giant helmet and moving lights.

There was a high-definition LED board that sat behind the new coach and UK administrators during the event. A media work area with wireless Internet had to be set up.

There was a catered lunch for 500 and 100 chairs set up for media and others.

But for all of that circus- style chaos, Schlafer said his favorite moment of the day came on the quiet airplane ride from Tallahassee to Nicholasville.

Before landing, the private plane furnished by R.J. Corman flew Stoops, his family and the UK dignitaries over a gussied up Commonwealth Stadium.

Stoops' face was as big and bright as the sun on the scoreboards in either end zone.

From the window of the plane, Stoops' 6-year-old son Will yelled out: "Hey, look, Dad's on TV."

Attendance revisited

A few weeks back, a Herald-Leader open records request revealed that there was a wide gap between the actual scanned fans at Commonwealth Stadium football games this season and the numbers that UK was reporting.

To round out the numbers discussion for the season, I requested the final actual attendance figures for the final home game versus Samford. That's when Kentucky officials said they no longer requested those figures from TicketMaster, therefore they wouldn't have to provide them to entities that requested them via the state open records laws.

Another series of requests eventually yielded the number of scanned tickets for the Samford game: 20,930 versus the 46,749 that was reported. (Remember: UK reports its attendance based on tickets out, which means tickets sold and/or distributed versus actual fans in the stands, which is not against any NCAA or SEC rules).

So here's how the numbers totaled out: UK's announced crowds for its seven home games came out to 347,838. The actual scanned attendance figure for those same games ended up being 218,422.

That's a difference of 129,416, or a population more than twice the size of Bowling Green. That would make the difference in actual and announced attendance the third largest city in Kentucky.

The largest discrepancy in the figures came for the Vanderbilt game with an announced crowd of 44,902, but only 18,885 total scanned tickets (that's a difference of 26,017 or a city slightly larger than Frankfort.)

Coaching in bowl?

At an Orange Bowl news conference this week, Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher indicated that new UK coach Stoops and former defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot, Kentucky's recently named defensive coordinator, might both be returning to Tallahassee to help with bowl prep against Northern Illinois.

"They brought it up to me," Fisher said, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. "They said, 'It's been so good being here, we got an opportunity.'

"(Stoops) and I have a very good relationship and he said he would do anything to help us."

Stoops and Eliot likely would go back during the football dead period, which starts on Dec. 17 and runs through the first part of January.

Fisher indicated that he was in the process of working with the school's compliance people on the logistics, especially if a new defensive coordinator is in place for the Seminoles before the bowl game on Jan. 1.

"If you tell somebody you've got the job, can you hire him and can these guys come back? If any of them come back to coach, can I hire a guy? I'm in the process of (learning) whatever the rules are."

New positions

Expect a good number of Stoops' staff at Kentucky to be named in the next two weeks, including a few new names at new positions that apparently have been created for the Cats' new coach.

UK's hiring regulations mandate that the positions are posted on the university jobs board for a set number of days before the position can be filled, so it provides a window into what those positions might be and do.

UK now will have a new "Football Performance Coordinator," a position described as an enhanced strength and conditioning coach.

"This person will be responsible for ensuring that football student athletes are receiving proper nutrition advice and that their mental state is being addressed," the summary says. "They will serve as the strength and conditioning liaison between other athletic departments."

It appears there also will be a separate coach for strength and conditioning, who will "oversee the day to day development of the football student athletes' physical profiles and the day to day operations of the Nutter Center Weight Room. This individual will assist in the strength, speed, conditioning and quickness training of student athletes as required." He or she will report to the performance coordinator.

UK also will have a full-time director of football recruiting, according to the jobs board.

Honor roll

This was awards week for college football and while the Cats came up short on the football field this season, several players did end up earning some individual honors.

Here's the rundown so far:

 Senior offensive lineman Larry Warford was second- team All-SEC by The Associated Press, coaches and CollegeSportsMadness.com.

 Freshman punter Landon Foster was first-team Freshman All-American by Scout.com. The league's coaches also had him on their All-Freshman team.

 Junior linebacker Avery Williamson was second-team All-SEC by CollegeSportsMadness.com.

 Sophomore linebacker Alvin "Bud" Dupree was third-team All-SEC by CollegeSportsMadness.com.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Email: jsmith3@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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