If you are among that segment of Kentucky football backers who have long worshiped at the altar of Hiring The Big Name Head Coach, the strongest support for your argument will be wearing a visor in Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
When South Carolina began playing football in the SEC in 1992, the Gamecocks actually had less tradition of football success than Kentucky. At that time, South Carolina had never even won a bowl game.
From 1992 through 1999, UK won more SEC contests than USC (21 to 19), won more games overall (37 to 32) and went 5-3 head to head against the Gamecocks.
However, after a 1-10 season in 1998, South Carolina said enough of coaching hires the caliber of Sparky Woods and Brad Scott, and lured ex-Notre Dame head man Lou Holtz to Columbia.
Holtz endured an 0-11 start in 1999, but then took the Gamecocks to back-to-back Outback Bowls after the 2000 and 2001 seasons, beating Ohio State each time. After his program seemed to plateau in 2004, Doctor Lou headed for the exit. South Carolina then brought on an even bigger name as its Head Ball Coach.
As Steve Spurrier brings the 2014 Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2 SEC) to Lexington for Saturday evening's 7:30 meeting with UK (3-1, 1-1), South Carolina is in the midst of its greatest football era.
The Gamecocks have won 11 games in each of the past three seasons. In Spurrier's nine seasons prior to this, South Carolina has played in eight bowls, winning four. Though USC has yet to fulfill the HBC's goal of a Southeastern Conference title, it did win the SEC East in 2010.
"They've played good — great — football around South Carolina for the past several years, on both sides of the ball," Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said.
After lagging UK in the 1990s, South Carolina in its Big Name Head Coach era has run rings around Kentucky.
So far in the 2000s, USC is 113-67 overall, 62-54 in the SEC. UK is 68-105 overall, 25-89 in league games. Head-to-head, the tally in the 2000s stands South Carolina 13, Kentucky 1.
Other than the Randall Cobb-led upset of USC in Commonwealth in 2010, Spurrier has had precious little reason to toss his visor in these parts.
Interestingly, when Spurrier flamed out with the Washington Redskins of the NFL and was in coaching exile in 2004, there were some with power and ties to UK who wanted Kentucky to essentially offer the coach all the gold in Fort Knox to come to Lexington.
This in spite of the fact that the incumbent Kentucky head coach at the time, Rich Brooks, was in only his second season.
Over Brooks' final four seasons at UK (2006-09), Kentucky actually had a better overall record (30-22) than Spurrier and South Carolina (28-23).
Yet where UK fell back dramatically after Brooks' retirement, having gone 18-35 since, Spurrier and South Carolina took it to the proverbial next level. USC is 45-13 from 2010 through the present.
The key in that elevation was a run of difference-making, South Carolina high school players — Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffery (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011) — that Spurrier was able to convince to stay home.
So for those who have long yearned for Kentucky to invest in The Big Name Head Coach, Exhibit A of what is possible from that course will be on display in Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
Yet it is also true that Spurrier, like Nick Saban at Alabama, is an exceptional case — an elite college head man who was available because of an ill-advised career detour into the NFL.
Usually, The Big Name Head Coaches that have been linked to Kentucky have been those looking for a redemptive final act after their college careers went awry. There was Phillip Fulmer after he was fired at Tennessee (UK's 2012 search), Jim Donnan after he was canned at Georgia (2002 search), Howard Schnellenberger after he resigned at Oklahoma (1996 search), and Mike Gottfried after he exited Pittsburgh (1989 search).
The odds of luring a Saban or a Spurrier to UK have always been beyond astronomical.
Kentucky's best chance of meaningful football success has been identifying a potentially high-level head coach on his way up the ladder — which could be what UK has finally achieved in Mark Stoops.