Million-dollar payouts for guarantee games have become a new reality for schools in the Power Five conferences.
Kentucky football had its first taste of that last season with a $1 million contract paid to Louisiana-Monroe for its visit to Commonwealth Stadium in October.
As UK officials searched for a replacement for the lost 2016 home opener against Alabama-Birmingham, a different kind of arrangement arose and they took it.
Kentucky found its new deal — a home-and-home series — and replacement opponent in Southern Miss.
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"This was the agreement that made the most sense for us," UK spokesman Tony Neely said of the contract obtained by the Herald-Leader via an open records request on Tuesday.
UK agreed to pay the Golden Eagles $200,000 for the season opener at Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 3, 2016. Also, the Cats agreed to a rare return trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Sept. 2, 2017, with no payout for that trip.
"Division I teams are seeking to line up at least seven home games each year versus no more than five away games," Neely said. "Obviously that creates a huge seller's market."
UK's deal with Southern Miss replaces the $800,000 single-game guarantee contest with UAB, which eliminated its football program six months ago before announcing Monday that it would be reinstated, but with no timeline for its actual return.
This new football scheduling landscape means that UK will be the first Southeastern Conference team outside of the state of Mississippi to visit the Eagles' M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Mississippi State will open its 2015 season at Southern Miss on Sept. 5. The Golden Eagles have gone 4-32 over the past three seasons.
"I'm excited for our team and certainly excited for our fans," Southern Miss Director of Athletics Bill McGillis said in a release from the school.
"This qualifies as big news," McGillis said. The SEC games "provide wonderful opportunities to showcase Southern Miss and these games will have a significant impact on not only the city of Hattiesburg, but the entire Pine Belt region."
The two schools have met twice in football with UK winning both games, one coming in 1949 and the other in 1986. Both games were played in Lexington and the Cats won by a combined score of 103-7.
In an interview with the Herald-Leader in December, Marc Hill, UK's executive associate athletic director for internal operations, said that the lower-level conferences now "hold all the cards" when it comes to scheduling.
"MAC guys, Sun Belt guys and the Conference USA guys know 'they're coming after us. And they've got to have one of us,' " said Hill, who oversees UK football scheduling.
"So as a league — I don't know if it's a written rule or an unwritten rule — (they hope) to get as much as they can because it helps everybody in their league. I hope it doesn't go crazy."
For the Cats' three non-conference home games last season against Tennessee-Martin, Ohio and Louisiana Monroe, they had to spend more than $2 million.
This season's schedule includes $2.3 million worth of guarantee games against Eastern Kentucky ($450,000), Charlotte ($900,000) and a renovated Commonwealth Stadium opener against Louisiana-Lafayette ($950,000).
Contracts available for the 2016 season include the $200,000 payout to Southern Miss for the Sept. 3 game in Lexington as well as a $375,000 game against Austin Peay on Nov. 19, 2016.