Sidelines with John Clay

Mitch Barnhart was right to worry about Music City Bowl ticket sales

Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart, right, offers encouragement to quarterback Stephen Johnson after UK’s last-second 37-34 loss to Ole Miss at Kroger Field on Saturday Nov. 4, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart, right, offers encouragement to quarterback Stephen Johnson after UK’s last-second 37-34 loss to Ole Miss at Kroger Field on Saturday Nov. 4, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

I’m staying behind for the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game on Friday and won’t be in Nashville for the Kentucky football team’s Music City Bowl game against Northwestern. Sounds like I’m not the only one.

As my colleague Jennifer Smith reported Tuesday, UK has yet to sell its allotment of 8,000 tickets for Friday’s 4:30 p.m. game at Nissan Stadium.

That doesn’t mean that less than 8,000 UK fans will be on hand in the Music City to watch Mark Stoops’ team try for its eighth win of the season. There are plenty of ways to get bowl tickets without going through the university’s athletic department.

It does raise a red flag, however, and confirm that right after it was established that the Cats were headed to Tennessee to play a Big Ten team, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart was right to make a plea to the fans for their support. Still, the AD is no doubt concerned about the response.

“Our fan base has always been tremendous in responding to that,” he said on that Sunday with regard to the 8,000 minimum. “I don’t see that being an issue.”

[Frustrated Kentucky football fans, Mitch Barnhart hears and needs you]

This isn’t a total surprise, however. There’s the basketball game, of course. It’s Kentucky-Louisville in Rupp Arena, by far the best home game to date on what has been an unimpressive home basketball schedule.

Then there’s the way the football team limped to the regular-season finish line, blown out 42-13 by Georgia and 44-17 by Louisville. Throw in the 45-7 loss at Mississippi State and arguably the three best teams on UK’s schedule handled the Cats by a combined count of 131-37.

Tuesday’s football news that outside linebacker/defensive end Denzil Ware has been suspended for the bowl game doesn’t help. The weather forecast of a high of 41 degrees on Friday isn’t inviting either.

Maybe the Music City Bowl will benefit from a big walk-up crowd of Kentucky fans, who waited until the last minute before making their decision to attend.

From what we know now about ticket sales, however, Barnhart was right to worry.

Kentucky’s bowl games since 1950

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Record

Bowl

Coach

1/2/51

Oklahoma

13

7

W

11-1-0

Sugar

Bryant

1/1/52

Texas Christian

20

7

W

8-4-0

Cotton

Bryant

12/31/76

North Carolina

21

0

W

9-3-0

Peach

Curci

12/22/83

West Virginia

16

20

L

6-5-1

Hall of Fame

Claiborne

12/29/84

Wisconsin

20

19

W

9-3-0

Hall of Fame

Claiborne

12/31/93

Clemson

13

14

L

6-6-0

Peach

Curry

1/1/99

Penn State

14

26

L

7-5-0

Outback

Mumme

12/29/99

Syracuse

13

20

L

6-6-0

Music City

Mumme

12/29/06

Clemson

28

20

W

8-5

Music City

Brooks

12/31/07

Florida State

35

28

W

8-5

Music City

Brooks

1/2/09

East Carolina

25

19

W

7-6

Liberty

Brooks

12/27/09

Clemson

13

21

L

7-6

Music City

Brooks

1/8/11

Pittsburgh

10

27

L

6-7

BBVA Compass

Phillips

12/31/16

Georgia Tech

18

33

L

7-6

TaxSlayer

Stoops

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments