UK Football

Mark Story: Will 'new Commonwealth Stadium' transform UK football?

In a $27.5 million expansion, both end zones were enclosed at Commonwealth Stadium. Forty suites were added, as well as new video boards, new scoreboards and additional restrooms and concession stands. It also raised seating capacity to 67,550.
In a $27.5 million expansion, both end zones were enclosed at Commonwealth Stadium. Forty suites were added, as well as new video boards, new scoreboards and additional restrooms and concession stands. It also raised seating capacity to 67,550. LEXINGTON HERALD LEADER

If you are speculating on the impact the "new Commonwealth Stadium" can have on Kentucky football, just listen to the testimonial of the best coach in the country.

"This new stadium will be a tremendous help to (Kentucky's coach). It's going to be something when completed. This facility is one of the finest I've ever seen."

The words of Nick Saban? Urban Meyer? No, actually Paul "Bear" Bryant, spoken when Commonwealth Stadium was literally new in September 1973.

On Saturday night, Mark Stoops' third season as Kentucky football coach kicks off when the Wildcats face Lousiana-Lafayette. The 2015 season opener will, of course, also serve as the unveiling of Commonwealth Stadium 3.0.


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At last, the ticket-buying public will get its first look at what $120 million in renovations has wrought as UK's football stadium enters its 43rd season.

In the popular mind, Commonwealth Stadium long ago became synonymous with some of the soul-crushing, late-game UK defeats to which it has played host.

Its actual history, however, is more complex and interesting than just Kentucky football's "house of heartbreak."

CWS 1.0

Duration: Sept. 15, 1973, through Nov. 14, 1998

Capacity: 57,800

Cost: Commonwealth Stadium was originally constructed for some $12 million

First game: Kentucky 31, Virginia Tech 26, Sept. 15, 1973

First Kentucky touchdown: Ray Barga on a 13-yard pass from Ernie Lewis

Last game: Kentucky 55, Vanderbilt 17, Nov. 14, 1998

Last Kentucky touchdown: Vincent Harrison on a 78-yard pass from Matt Mumme

Greatest Kentucky win of the CWS 1.0 era: Rallying in the fourth period to beat Tennessee 21-17 and finish off a 10-1 season on Nov. 19, 1977

Most soul-crushing Kentucky defeat of the CWS 1.0 era: UK intercepts a stunning seven — seven! — Florida passes, yet still loses 24-20 on Danny Wuerffel's 28-yard touchdown pass to Chris Doering with three seconds left on Sept. 11, 1993.

Best Kentucky offensive player of the CWS 1.0 era: Tim Couch (1996-98)

Best Kentucky defensive player of the CWS 1.0 era: Art Still (1974-77)

UK record in Commonwealth Stadium 1.0: 90-68-4 (35-50 SEC)

CWS 2.0

Duration: Sept. 4, 1999, through Nov. 8, 2014

Capacity: 67,550

Cost: Renovation that bowled in the stadium and added 40 luxury suites cost some $27.5 million

First game: Louisville 56, Kentucky 28, Sept. 4, 1999

First Kentucky touchdown: James Whalen Jr. on 57-yard pass from Dusty Bonner

Last game: Georgia 63, Kentucky 31, Nov. 8, 2014

Last Kentucky touchdown: Javess Blue on 9-yard pass from Patrick Towles

Greatest Kentucky win of the CWS 2.0 era: Upsetting eventual BCS national champion LSU 43-37 in triple overtime on Oct. 13, 2007

Most soul-crushing Kentucky loss of the CWS 2.0 era: The Marcus Randall to Devery Henderson 75-yard Hail Mary pass that was tipped by not one, not two but three UK defenders before going for the winning points on the final play of LSU's 33-30 victory Nov. 9, 2002

Best Kentucky offensive player of the CWS 2.0 era: Randall Cobb (2008-10).

Best Kentucky defensive player of the CWS 2.0 era: Trevard Lindley (2006-09)

UK record in Commonwealth Stadium 2.0: 53-55 (17-47 SEC)

CWS 3.0

Duration: Sept. 5, 2015 through ...

Capacity: 61,000

Cost: The renovation, which reduced overall capacity but added 27 additional luxury suites (to bring stadium total to 67), loge and mezzanine seating as well as the long-discussed recruiting room, has cost some $120 million.

First game: Kentucky vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Sept. 5, 2015

Bear Bryant's words not withstanding, the opening of Commonwealth Stadium in 1973 did not permanently alter the arc of Kentucky football.

The best The Long-Suffering UK Football Fan can realistically hope is that the current renovation helps create a dynamic that allows Kentucky coaches to recruit more players capable of winning more SEC football games than UK has traditionally done.

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