Sidelines with John Clay

Mailbag: Is there negativity about Kentucky football?

My Monday blog post about the negativity from the fan base about Kentucky football brought plenty or reaction. Here are some of the e-mails I’ve received:

Dan writes:

Hey John

I think your article is on target. There may be even more that has led to fan disappointment such as the university’s willingness to make capital improvements, pay seemingly premium salaries for coaching etc.; when these same measures may have really had an impact had they been done years ago.

I’ve been a fan since Curci and we have had some flashes of momentum but we failed to support these same things earlier coaches wanted; and thus lost any edge we may have received.

Now we find Coach Stoops picking up a program in the pits because of even more poor decision making by the university. So he starts with some good energy and a recruiting plan which I believe is working but the last thing we need is hype. Just work hard as a staff and an administration and get some results .....then the fans will do their part.

Michael writes:

The Louisville and Vandy games last year convinced me the coach is in over his head. Both games were ours to win. He and his staff choked. I do believe he has recruited better athletes but to win in the SEC you must have a great offensive and defensive lines. We have neither. Fans all know it because they see the results when the conference games begin. Inferior lines do not protect our QB and don’t allow us to hit their QB. It is that simple. Stoops results are the same every year and will be till he gets two lines. I miss Coach Brooks. Now there was a coach.

David writes:

You are on target with today’s Herald-Leader article.

While you don’t mention it, I am sure you are aware that many of the most faithful are disgusted with the way the University is handling reserve lot parking. In short, it is another “money grab” with little, if any, consideration for the existing permit holders.

Going undefeated would, of course, cure a lot [no pun]. In the meantime, the Athletic Department is burning Good Will with same subtlety that Gen. Sherman showed to Georgia.

Jeff writes:

Dear Mr. Clay,

Amen to everything you wrote today concerning UK Football. As a longtime member, according to Bill Curry, of the ‘Fellowship of the Miserable’ I just can’t take it anymore. The UK Athletic Department has priced me, and I believe many others, out of attendance. The product on the field is in no way a representation of what they are charging the patrons in the stand! I believe that gone are the days when you can schedule a football game at Commonwealth Stadium and the fans will show up! In today’s market, with the addition of the SEC Network and Hi Definition televisions, it just isn’t worth paying the exorbitant fees that UK is charging. I can watch UK win 5 games a year, and be disgusted with the program in my living room, for a whole lot less money!

As far as the upgrades to Commonwealth Stadium, I agree with your article. The changes that were made were for the big dollar donors and really didn’t have anything to do with the die-hard fan in the stand. UK says that they want to improve the game day experience for the average fan, but when it came to spending money to upgrade for internet connectivity for the fans in the stands, they only spent the money for those in the luxury boxes! In this day and age, being able to connect to the internet and use your smartphone is one of the basics, especially for the UK students, that really don’t attend the games either. Even McDonald’s gives free wi-fi connectivity today. Once again, staying at home is a better experience than being in the stands.

I am really tired of hearing that UK’s ticket prices, and K-Fund donations are far below everyone else in the SEC! Since when is it a requirement that a coach make as much, if not more, than everyone in the conference? What happened to earning your paycheck based on what you produce? Also, what does it say about Mark Stoops, and his program, when he cannot hire a coach away from Cincinnati or stop coaches from leaving to go to UNC? I find it hard to believe the story that Stoops tells about Eddie Gran turning down his first attempt to try to bring him to UK 2 years ago? I mean, how far down is the UK program when a SEC team cannot hire a coach away from the American Athletic Conference? For Gran to rebuff Stoops says a lot more about the program than the vacant seats in the stands.

One last comment. I know that UK football is the cash cow of the athletic department. I do think that UK would not have to gouge people on the ticket price, and parking sticker, and every other minor charge if they would simply win! I have been following UK football since Commonwealth Stadium opened, and I long for a winning program, I have just come to the conclusion that it is not going to happen. I do not see Kentucky ever entering into the upper echelon of SEC football! The hill they have to climb is just too extreme! I believe Coach Stoops and Mr. Barnhart can schedule a trip to a bowl game by playing minor mid major schools and FBS schools like Eastern Kentucky and the University of Charlotte but they will never be able to reach the SEC title game. I truly believe that a better name for CWS is the Money Pit! They keep throwing money into and get absolutely no return on investment. Sooner, (after another disappointing season of wins) rather than later, the only people in the stands will be the band and a few in the luxury suites, while everyone else will be watching from home.

Reid writes:

C’mon John

Maybe response to your post spring game column was light, because the column wasn’t that stellar!

Trying to be both constructive and cogent, I’m not being “snarly” in suggesting that your angle about Stoops saying “sweat work” has to be done isn’t going to foment a ton of discussion. I believe you have one of the GREAT jobs on the planet- reporting on UK sports. But respectfully, you all have to ask better questions with sharper angles.

As someone who lives in Indiana, and tries to live vicariously through LHL reporting, what I think would both evoke response AND do the reading public some good would be several points:

1) it’s my long held conviction that the pattern of UK’s basketball success doesn’t lead to a lot of patience from fanbase about football;

2) when you’re playing in the hardest freaking football conference in the universe, every inch of progress is HARD- i.e rebuilding in the Big 10 is a 5 year process, in the SEC it’s probably a 10 year process- where has THAT been in any of your columns?- and oh yeah- people will chime in on the topic of whether it might to be harder to rebuild in the SEC vs other conferences; good topic lead to good response, n’est pas?;

3) have you noticed UK’s schedules in the last 10 years, why does one of the weakest teams always win up with the hardest schedules (answer the SEC doesn’t WANT UK to succeed in basketball, and certainly NOT in football (ergo - we ALWAYS get Florida game kinda calls when it counts); now Alabama’s on the schedule-great? Do your job- go interview the SEC people about how they rotate the schedules;

4) WANT some discussion John -try this — you all are concentrating on whether Stoops is getting it done— do you honestly think someone else is going to do better??? YOU WRITERS are UK’s worst enemies; at least ask the readers to address the issue of who is honestly going to work harder than Stoops? I don’t think he’s perfect-but he is trying and it’s showing;

5) The Eyeball test- I’ve watched football at UK for 50 years, I still do devotionals for 5-6 NFL crews each year—I know football—UK talent base IS clearly better than its been, but often we’re still catching up, or just trying to hold our place. UK now has the 2nd largest O line in the SEC- that’s a first! So —reporter dudes where are your interviews with Schlarman asking whether we’ll be the 2nd TOUGHEST line in the conference?

What a horrible break that just about the time we’ve addressed talent issues in so many other areas, this year’s team is going to pay for weakness in the front 7 defensively. Does that mean we’re not making progress? Not if it’s really a 10 year deal to rebuild in the SEC;

6) I’ll give you one that will stir LOTS of discussion if you put it out there right.

Good news- we got rid of Shannon as OC, and brought in Gran, and Hinshaw —

Bad news- they want to be run first—OK- in the SEC where everybody else runs it better than we do-#1, and #2 where every defense is predicated on stopping the other guys run game.

If UK is going to turn the corner in football, wouldn’t we have a “better” chance as “the pass happy team in the conference-not Air Raid- but West Coast- overload zones or man coverage and then get mismatches with other teams LB’s on guys like speed demon KING?

Feel free to use any or all these—finally


YOUR comments about UK’s fans attitudes about football, once again were “catfish” comments- bottom feeder stuff.

Do you want this program to get better? Wouldn’t you have more readership with positive results?

How about doing your job to really report? Because if I had your job, and was getting paid for reporting on UK

I would be blessed!

Unnamed writes:

Your column today hit the nail directly on the head. Especially the obvious fact that most of the real stadium improvements went to the big money people. Not fair. Keep telling it like it is. You have a powerful voice.

Louis writes:

I read your article in the H-L this morning. Many fans like myself are patient and understand that improving the football program is a process. The trend is improving, and a lot of positive fans don’t follow Twitter. I believe we have the right coach for this program and hope all the negativity does not run him off.

Mary Ann writes:

Your comments about fan dissatisfaction are right on the mark. We were treated horribly last year by UK. After we chose our seats, UK moved us again without our knowledge to cheaper seats in a corner of the end zone. We found out about the move when we received a refund from UK on our credit card and I called to find out why. We did manage to move to somewhat better seats but the people around us stood the entire game, so it was either stand or watch on the big screen. We’ll be watching from our big screen at home this year. And, yesterday UK sent us a notice that our payment for season ticket renewal was past due!

Ron writes:

Not every UK football fan is negative about the POSSIBILITY of the turning the football program around. It is a PROCESS that could take years. I see the university pouring money into the program. (+) The coaches are working very hard on the field and on the recruiting circuit. (+) The kids are working extremely hard and developing. (+) We as FANS should support this team and allow the process to take place and not take every opportunity to be negative.

Don writes:

I have been a UK football fan since 1963 when I entered UK as a freshman. I attended games at Stoll Field during my stay at UK. I lived outside of Kentucky for a couple years and moved back to Lexington in 1970. My wife and I would attend a few games. We did not get season tickets until Commonwealth Stadium was completed.

This year I did not renew my tickets. I have paid for too many losing seasons.

I will miss the tailgating...but not the poor football and the exorbitant prices that Mitch Barnhart has levied.

Next fall I will be watching the games from Herrington Lake on a big screen and having a cold one.

The $5 football investment will fund winter lodging where I will watch basketball...Kentucky of course.

Bob writes:

The University of Kentucky football program is not likely to play .. ever .. at the level of most of the SEC .. nor is the rest of the SEC likely to ever play at the same level as UK basketball .. just the dynamics of college athletics ..!! Why would top-fight football players come to KY on a consistent basis when ‘fan base’ is buzzing about Midnight and March Madness in September .. football season ..??

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