LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- So, I'm trying to keep all this straight in my head. The University of Kentucky has put up at least four billboards recently in Louisville. And inside its own renovated football complex, it put up a "Louisville wall."
Sounds about right.
This year's twist is that one of its billboards hangs directly over the University of Louisville campus. I've heard unconfirmed reports that new UK billboards also are planned adjacent to Charlie Strong's lawn, Tom Jurich's vacation home and Rick Pitino's breakfast nook.
It's all part of the psychological ops between the programs. The schools, of course, will deny such things. Don't be surprised. That's also part of the psy-ops. In fact, U of L was the first I remember getting into the billboard act with one titled, "Kentucky's Finest" that went into strategic spots around the state and featured Mike Bush, Eric Shelton, Brian Brohm and others.
UK's best score remains its billboard on Interstate 65 south just before you cross the bridge into Kentucky proclaiming that, "You are entering Wildcat Country."
Jurich, however, declared checkmate years ago when he obtained and commissioned a billboard high in the hills above Frankfort and I-64 heading west. It simply features a Cardinal's head logo and the word, "We're Miles Ahead."
That billboard, he will never give up. I think there's a provision to keep it going in his will. He doesn't really need any other billboards.
But this latest UK billboard seemed a bit too close to campus for U of L comfort, though UK officials say that wasn't the intent, that they were just looking for a high-traffic area along I-65.
The billboard itself is innocent enough, saying only, "It's Football Time in the Bluegrass!" with a University of Kentucky player and the Twitter hashtag #WEAREUK. I've also seen UK billboards downtown, on the Watterson Expressway heading east and on I-65 South heading out toward Bullitt County.
The one on campus, however, is the one that kicked up some controversy. Erected above the U of L Environmental Protection Center, home to the department of Environmental Health and Safety, it is in the direct eye line of thousands of U of L students, faculty and staff every day.
The people in that Environmental Protection Center are responsible for keeping tabs on the safe handling and disposal of the many dangerous substances that universities with scientific research can produce. Visit its website and you can read about topics like, "Recombinant DNA Biohazardous Material Incident Response."
I don't know. It just seems strange that UK would want to fire up this year's billboard trash talk around a place that handles biohazardous and radioactive trash. Go after the Fine Arts building. The worst they can do is maybe hit you with some lead paint.
Regardless, it ticked off U of L supporters enough that some of them funded a billboard campaign for Lexington with the slogan, "Lexington is for the birds." Now I appreciate the effort and spirit, but Lamar communications, which owns the majority of Lexington billboards, wouldn't post a derogatory message about the city within the city, and I don't blame it.
A deal was reached where the company would rent the billboard space just outside of Frankfort.
I don't see much need for fans to run down the cities themselves. The "Louisville Doesn't Exist" movement was a prime example of this. Louisville doesn't exist? Judging from UK's marketing efforts, it might be all that exists. And there's no reason to knock Lexington.
In contrast to all that, these latest billboards are tame. A year ago, UK threw up some fancy billboards that played the UK fight song if you turned to a certain radio station.
All of this makes for some summer fun, but they'd be laughing at us in Mississippi, where they don't mess around when they see a billboard opening.
Mississippi State actually reported one of its own billboard slogans for an NCAA violation when it decided that a billboard with the words "Play With the Best," constituted a message to recruits. It didn't help that an assistant AD admitted that the billboards were being used for recruiting. One of them, in fact, welcomed people as they entered Oxford, Miss., home to Ole Miss.
The Rebels, of course, couldn't let that aggression stand. They fired back with a billboard that featured Eli Manning and a couple of other alums with the slogan "The road to the pro bowl goes through Ole Miss."
Southern Miss also got involved, with its entry saying, "Mississippi's only BCS-ranked football team."
Not far away, in North Carolina, N.C. State posted a "We are STATE" billboard at each major interstate entrance to the state. I'm guessing a lot of folks in Chapel Hill just smiled.
Just because you put something on a billboard doesn't make it true -- but it does make it big.
Besides, I hear there's a new player in the billboard game in town. And I hear these guys are pretty serious.