The Kentucky football program has gone to five straight bowl games. The Cats have had four winning seasons in the past five years. Yet when one samples the public attitude toward UK football, dissatisfaction all but rages.
If you are looking for the explanation as to why the populace seems to have discounted what has been a moderately improved Kentucky football experience these past five years, it can be summed up in one word:
How different would the perception of Kentucky football be right now if the Cats had taken advantage of golden, late-game opportunities to slay the hated Orange in 2006, '07 and '09?
The answer is vast.
In the late 1990s, the separation between UT and UK in football was wider than the mighty Mississippi. From 1996 through 2000, the Vols spanked the Cats 56-10, 59-31, 59-21, 56-21 and 59-20, respectively.
That five-year stretch was, in a sense, the most embarrassing period in what is now a humiliating two-decade-plus dry spell for UK in what used to be a college football rivalry with UT.
Yet for the Kingdom of the Blue, those poundings weren't nearly as frustrating as the last five years of Kentucky-Tennessee have been.
UT has slipped back toward the SEC middle from its golden days of the late 1990s.
Kentucky has taken a first step, although only a first step, toward advancing its football program from the SEC bottom toward the middle.
From 2006-10, Tennessee's overall record is 37-28; Kentucky's is 36-29.
UT's SEC mark is 21-19; UK's is 14-26.
The Volunteers are 5-16 against ranked foes; the Cats are 3-17.
Tennessee has beaten two Top 10-ranked teams in the past five years; Kentucky has beaten three Top 10 teams in the same time frame.
UK's improvement has come from feasting on soft non-conference schedules, sure. But the Cats have surprised some of the SEC big boys — Georgia twice, Arkansas twice, LSU, Auburn, South Carolina — with some regularity during the current football uptick.
Yet ever there remains the frustrating futility with Tennessee.
Three times in the last five meetings (2006, '07 and '09) between Cats and Vols, Kentucky has had the ball inside the Tennessee 10-yard line on its final possession of regulation with a chance to win the game.
Three times, the Cats have failed.
Had UK won those three games, it would have cracked the historically elusive (for the Cats) eight-win regular-season victory mark all three years and likely opened the door to better bowl games.
If Kentucky had simply prevailed over Tennessee in Commonwealth Stadium in the four-overtime loss in 2007 and in 2009 in an OT defeat, Rich Brooks might have a statue on the Commonwealth concourse.
Pull those two games out, Joker Phillips would have more goodwill banked with the paying public than he presently has.
As a Kentucky player, Phillips played on the last two Kentucky teams (1981 and '84) to silence Rocky Top. Yet for Joker as coach, the Vols have been a particular thorn.
A large element of the UK fan base seemed to sour on Phillips, who was then UK's offensive play caller, after 2009 when UK did not put the ball into the hands of star Randall Cobb on the final two plays near the Tennessee goal line with a chance to win.
In his first go against the Vols as UK's head coach last season, Phillips elected to punt when the Cats, down 21-14, had 4th-and-2 at the UT 37 on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Subsequently, Tennessee drove for the game-clinching field goal.
Tune into Lexington radio sports call-in shows this summer, and you'll hear callers still complaining about that punt call.
It is likely that Tennessee bottomed out last season, when it had its third head coach in three seasons and suffered its second losing record (6-7) in the past five years.
Even utilizing a freshman-heavy lineup, Derek Dooley still beat UK in 2010. This year, the Vols are starting the trek back up the SEC ladder.
For The Long-Suffering UK Football Fan, there is one thought that could make the last five years of so-close-yet-so-far futility against UT even worse:
What if Kentucky has already missed its best shot(s) to end The Streak?