UK football's 'guarantee games' come with steep price tag

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJuly 8, 2014 

Commonwealth Stadium

A new multimedia contract will help the University of Kentucky make improvements to Commonwealth Stadium.

FARON COLLINS — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

Finding three opponents willing to come to Commonwealth Stadium and play against Kentucky has become more costly as of late.

The Cats' three non-conference home games against Tennessee-Martin, Louisiana-Monroe and Ohio University will cost more than $2 million this season, according to the contracts obtained by the Herald-Leader.

The highest price tag game for Kentucky this season is the $1 million payout to Louisiana-Monroe. The Warkhawks take on UK on Oct. 11.

For perspective, it cost UK $1 million combined to play Miami (Ohio) and Alabama State last season in the so-called "guarantee games."

The Western Kentucky series, part of a four-game contract, was a split-ticket deal last year in Nashville with 42 percent going to the Hilltoppers, 30 percent to UK and 28 percent to the Nashville Sports Council. When WKU came to Commonwealth Stadium the year before, it was a flat $500,000 payout from UK.

Here is the breakdown of the three guarantee games for Kentucky this season:

Tennessee-Martin: The Cats' season opener against the Skyhawks will cost UK $410,000 (increased from the original agreed upon $375,000 before the date of the game was moved as a part of the Southeastern Conference's schedule shakeups). As part of the contract, the visiting team will receive 800 complimentary tickets and 2,000 tickets to sell to its fans. Up to 500 of those tickets can be returned to UK two weeks before the game. The Aug. 30 game is a one-game contract signed in May of 2013.

Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks and UK signed their one-game deal in March of 2013. Louisiana-Monroe will be given 5,000 tickets to sell to fans, with unsold tickets being returned to UK by Sept. 15. They also will receive 300 complimentary tickets beyond the tickets for sale.

Ohio University: When the Bobcats come to Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 6, it is part of a one-game deal signed in early 2009 where UK agreed to pay $650,000. Ohio University will receive 3,000 tickets to sell to fans and can return no more than 500 tickets within two weeks of the game. The Bobcats also receive 350 free tickets in the deal.

38,024 season tickets sold

Kentucky made a big push for fans to buy football season tickets by June 30 to increase their K-Fund points and improve their chances of getting select seats at the re-seated Commonwealth Stadium in 2015.

As of July 7, that push has yielded 38,024 season tickets sold, according to a school spokesman.

For comparison's sake, UK reported it had sold 37,901 season tickets in early June of last season. Also, in 2012, Joker Phillips' final season, Kentucky had 38,655 season ticket holders in all.

There is usually a late surge of season ticket purchasers, including students once they return to campus in early August.

Before the season opener last season, UK athletics department spokesman DeWayne Peevy told the Herald-Leader that UK had 47,426 season tickets out, which included student tickets as well as comps.

Tickets can be purchased at ukfootballtix.com or by calling the ticket office at (800) 928-2287.

Toth on Rimington list

Kentucky's Jon Toth, whom coaches called "the most improved player we've got on offense" during spring practices, is on the national watch list for the nation's best center. He was one of 66 centers placed on the Rimington Trophy Watch List on Tuesday morning.

Toth, one of five sophomores on the list, became the full-time starter at center in UK's second game of the season in 2013, finishing with 11 starts. His play at center in 2013 helped three UK players rush for 400-plus yards, the first time UK did that since 1986.

Toth was named to the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team by league coaches and also made the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader.Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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