Mark Story

College football topsy- turvy

Evidence continues to mount that the world has turned upside down.

During Kentucky's 2-9 death march of a football season in 2004, there were powerful people with connections to UK putting out overtures to then-unemployed Steve Spurrier, gauging his interest in the Wildcats' head coaching job.

Never mind that UK had no coaching vacancy, Rich Brooks then being in his second year.

To the lament of the many who had concluded Brooks was nothing more than a place holder at UK, the Head Ball Coach eventually signed on with South Carolina.

At the time, Spurrier's presence was widely seen as showing that South Carolina was serious about football. At the time, Brooks' presence at UK was widely seen as showing that Kentucky wasn't serious.

Lo and behold, look where we are now.

Two games into 2008, it is Brooks that has won 15 of his last 21 games at UK and who is presiding over the most successful non-probation stretch of Kentucky football since the 1950s.

It is Spurrier who has lost six of his last seven games at Carolina which includes a two-game skid against Vanderbilt.

I'd have said Kim Kardashian would win an Academy Award before Steve Spurrier lost two in a row to Vanderbilt.

So it is that on Sept. 9, 2008, Kentucky backers are far more content with Brooks than a restive South Carolina fan base is with the coach formerly known as Steve Superior.

It is the world turned upside down.

Two years ago, Louisville started its run to a 12-1 season and the Orange Bowl by obliterating Kentucky 59-28.

At the time, U of L fans figured if Cardinals Athletics Director Tom Jurich needed to cross the Ohio River to visit Indiana, there would be no need for the Kennedy Bridge.

The 2006 victory was Louisville's fourth in a row over Kentucky. It gave the Cards a 7-2 record against UK with Jurich-hired football coaches on the Louisville sideline.

Meanwhile, as Kentucky left Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on the night of Sept. 3, 2006, Rich Brooks' career record at UK stood at 9-26.

At the time, the man who hired Brooks, Mitch Barnhart, could drive through Lexington and often see his name from the rear of passing cars. On the bumper stickers that said Ditch Mitch and Rich.

Lo and behold, look where we are now.

It is Kentucky that has won two straight bowl games and two in a row head-to-head with Louisville.

It is Louisville — led by Jurich's most recent coaching hire, Steve Kragthorpe — that is 7-7 in its last 14 games and that stayed home last bowl season.

Now, rather than being booed in Commonwealth Stadium, Barnhart and UK President Lee Todd are hailed for having the backbone to stick by Brooks through the lean times.

It is U of L-oriented Internet message boards that are filled with fury. It is Jurich being accused by some of his own fan base of making a "buddy hire" in choosing Kragthorpe.

This in spite of the fact that Jurich's two well-received prior football hires at U of L — John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino — were also people with whom the AD had a relationship before bringing to Louisville.

So it is that on Sept. 9, 2008, Kentucky backers are far more content with Barnhart's administration of UK football than a stunningly restive Louisville fan base seems with Jurich — the AD on whose watch U of L has won a BCS Bowl; played in a men's basketball Final Four; and in baseball's College World Series.

Yes, the world is turned upside down.

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