Every year now, football fans in these parts starts to get worked up over nothing. The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville will play football on Sept. 14. They will play next season. They'll play the season after.
But every season now, with conference realignment percolating, we in the media like to stir up the question of whether the series will continue if the Southeastern Conference goes to a nine-game schedule.
So we trot over to Mitch Barnhart and ask him. And Barnhart, honest to a fault sometimes, answers as truthfully as he can. He says the SEC hasn't gone to nine games, doesn't look at the moment like it will go to nine games, but if it does, they will burn the bridge when they come to it.
He's not outright saying that UK won't want the game if it has nine SEC games. But he's talking in that direction. At the very least, there has been a lack of long-term commitment.
Give him points for candor. But getting out of this rivalry game may be a feat that's harder to accomplish than anyone thinks, should the SEC go that route.
South Carolina, for example, won't drop Clemson. They have the longest running football rivalry in the south. Last year, when the South Carolina legislature threatened to get involved to pass a resolution that would mandate that they play, both schools said it was unnecessary. They're going to play.
Would Florida stop playing Florida State? No, says Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley. Would Georgia and Georgia Tech end their rivalry? Not likely. In Destin, Fla., for the SEC meetings in June, Foley said he expects those games to stay in place regardless of SEC schedule.
"Certainly, the Florida State game is very important to us. I don't see that changing," Foley told ESPN. "That's part of the conversation: Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech, I don't see those games changing. I can't speak for them; that's one guy's opinion.
". . . I don't think it's either-or, if we go to nine, those games are going by the wayside," Foley said. "I think it's more if you go to nine, those schools are going to play that game."
Nick Saban of Alabama is a proponent of a nine-game SEC schedule. But he says his program still will open the season with Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Michigan or some other comparable game.
In fact, Saban says he'd like to see everyone stop scheduling Football Championship Subdivision games altogether, so that everyone in the league is playing the same degree of difficulty.
Which brings us back to Kentucky.
They're going to drop their state rivalry game to add a directional school in some kind of ploy to get through the back door to a bowl game?
In reality, nobody can say. If Mark Stoops gets the program rolling, Kentucky shouldn't worry about Louisville. It should step up, win its share, and move on. It's one game.
But it's a big game in the state of Kentucky. If UK thinks its fans don't get up for that game, it needs to revisit its attendance numbers. The game is a premium spot on UK's schedule, which means the tickets cost more.
At Louisville, Tom Jurich says they're committed to the game, no matter how many ACC games wind up on the schedule.
Everybody likes the game. Most fans want the game. Talking about ending the football rivalry is one thing. Actually doing it is something else.
Most UK fans I talk to would prefer to see Stoops build the program into a winner, rather than making bowl eligibility a scheduling chess match.
Let's hope this is a bridge UK doesn't have to cross. And even if it does, let's hope UK doesn't drop a match on it.
Thursday, December 12 2013 5:10 PM EST2013-12-12 22:10:42 GMT
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