John Clay: ACC, SEC gave TV a Cats-Cards clash in finale; we might end up wanting it, too

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 21, 2013 

Satellites strapped to their heads, cash in their pockets, Mike Slive and John Swofford settled the Kentucky-Louisville scheduling debate.

The SEC and ACC commissioners politely asked the Cats and Cards to play their annual football game at the end of the season, just like the big boys do it.

Who were UK and U of L to say no?

So starting in 2014, the Governor's Cup will play out not in the searing September sun or under a harvest moon, but in the chilly vicinity of Thanksgiving.

Specifically, Kentucky will be at Louisville on Nov. 29, 2014.

Personally, I preferred the original starting date, i.e. the season-starting date.

After a long absence, such was the series re-launch in 1994. With the exception of 2001 when U of L played New Mexico State in its opener, the scheduling position stayed the same through 2006.

There was a reason for that. In a basketball-mad state, football received some summertime attention. Chatter lines filled with the who-is-better debate and the what-does-it-mean debate and assorted other feuds with attitude.

Then Rich Brooks called an audible. The Kentucky coach desired a couple of pre-cursors to iron out the kinks. Louisville disagreed.

So years in which the game was played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the matchup served as the season kickoff. Years in which the game was played at Commonwealth Stadium, the contest occupied a mid-September start.

Not another college football rivalry operates under such a peculiar arrangement, not that I'm aware of anyway.

Bottom line: If Louisville wants it, Kentucky doesn't. If Kentucky wants it, Louisville doesn't.

Now the conferences get what they want. Or closer to the truth, the television networks get what they want. They're the ones writing the checks. The schools are the ones cashing the checks.

Television wants better games and fewer holes in its programming schedule. Television gets what it wants.

As the website Mr. SEC points out, on Nov. 17 last season, the SEC schedule read like a bakery menu.

Alabama played Western Carolina. Auburn played Alabama A&M. Florida played Jacksonville State. Georgia played Georgia Southern. South Carolina played Wofford. Texas A&M played Sam Houston State. Kentucky played Samford.

That's seven SEC games against FCS foes on the same date. That was a day SEC fans threw their remotes at their TVs.

That won't happen in 2014. The most FCS foes the SEC faces on one date is five on Sept. 7. No big deal that. It's early. People are happy to watch football again. Even mismatches.

November is different. The wheat has separated from the chaff. Viewers are looking for big-boy games, outcomes that mean something in the conference races, rivalries that mean something (everything) to the fan bases.

Once upon a time, Kentucky-Tennessee was such a game, but no more. It's a bit sad that for the first time since 1953, UK-UT won't be the final scheduled regular-season game on the Kentucky schedule. But truth be told, it hasn't been much of a rivalry for a long time.

Kentucky has beaten Tennessee once since 1984. It was a memorable "once" but a once all the same.

UK-U of L is a truer rivalry now and playing on the final weekend is what SEC/ACC rivals do. Florida plays Florida State. Georgia plays Georgia Tech. South Carolina plays Clemson. Now Kentucky will play Louisville.

Think of it this way: Suppose Kentucky or Louisville hits that season finale in need of one more victory to clinch a bowl bid — or maybe even something bigger, even far bigger — and all the other side wants in the world is to keep its most bitter rival from doing exactly that.

There are worse ways to end a football season.

From UK athletics, the 2014 season schedule is:

Aug. 30 - UT Martin
Sept. 6 - Ohio University
Sept. 13 - at Florida
Sept. 20 - open
Sept. 27 - Vanderbilt
Oct. 4 - South Carolina
Oct. 11 - ULM
Oct. 18 - at LSU
Oct. 25 - Mississippi State
Nov. 1 - at Missouri
Nov. 8 - Georgia
Nov. 15 - at Tennessee
Nov. 22 - open
Nov. 29 - at Louisville

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog:

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