Rick Bozich and Eric Crawford debate the risks and rewards of moving the UK-U of L football game to late November.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – We're still eight days from the start of the 2013 college football season, but the debate about the 2014 season and beyond is already raging.
This is why:
The 2014 football game between Louisville and Kentucky has been moved to Nov. 29, the next-to-last Saturday of the season (the current contract runs through 2016). The University of Louisville, crediting an agreement between the schools as well as the ACC and SEC, made the announcement Wednesday.
Reasonable? Eric Crawford thinks so.
Worrisome? That is the take of Rick Bozich.
The two WDRB sports columnists decided that a special change to the most anticipated day on the local football calendar deserved a special debate.
ERIC: "At some point, you have to look at reality. The game as the season-opener was the choice of only one party in all this -- the University of Louisville.
"UK didn't want it as the opener. And now the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference don't want it as the opener.
"At this point, then, all you can do is embrace the change. The last game of the season certainly is better than the third game of the season. And far better than no game at all."
RICK: "You know what the last Saturday in November is? It's the fourth Saturday of the basketball season.
"Kentucky released its 2013-14 basketball schedule Monday. By Nov. 29 of this year the Wildcats will have already played seven games and two exhibitions. If you want to give people a reason not to pay attention, mission accomplished."
ERIC: "Anywhere outside the first weekend of the season, the game loses what little national appeal it had in the first place. It certainly is not going to get as much attention in a lineup with many other rivalry games -- Clemson-South Carolina and Florida-Florida State at the top of the list."
RICK: "Amen, and I'm just getting warmed up. By the end of the season Kentucky is usually lugging five, six, seven or more losses into the game. Over the last decade, the Wildcats have averaged six defeats prior to the season finale.
"People have stopped talking about which guy should play quarterback and started wondering if the Wildcats are ever going to find another Tim Couch. Optimism has disappeared.
"That's not a problem in week one and usually not in week three. The summer-long anticipation of the fresh season remains powerful.
"I did calendar research. Would you like a partial list of games being played on the last Saturday in November this season?
"Alabama at Auburn. Ohio State at Michigan. Notre Dame at Stanford. Georgia at Georgia Tech. Clemson at South Carolina. Florida State at Florida. UCLA at USC.
"Maybe there will be a broadcast window available on ESPN7?"
ERIC: "If this move somehow has a role in saving the rivalry, it could wind up being a good thing.
"The SEC, which still isn't committing to shelving an idea for a 9-game schedule, which would all but scuttle the UK-U of L series, now has some scheduling flexibility.
"It can put UK-Tennessee anywhere it likes. And hey, how about this? How about bringing Florida to Lexington for a cold-weather game once in a while?
"Nah, that will never happen."
RICK: "Here's another thing to worry about. Louisville moves into the ACC next season. Like the SEC, the ACC plays a conference championship game. Louisville aspires to play in that game. (Just as Kentucky aspires to play in the SEC title game, even though the Wildcats have yet to earn an invitation.)
"I can't imagine that Charlie Strong will be doing back flips about the thought of getting his guys ready to play a rivalry game just a week before he plans to be ask them to win a conference title game and qualify for a BCS bowl.
"I know that is the way it works for Georgia and Georgia Tech, Clemson and South Carolina or Florida and Florida State. That doesn't make it wise scheduling."
ERIC: "Let's be realistic. This move has just as much chance of being the next step toward ending the series as extending it. UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart says he doesn't want to do that, and has lobbied against a 9-game SEC schedule. But if he winds up having that scenario, he says he'll do what's best for his program, and the rivalry, it can be assumed, will go away, at least on an annual basis.
"U of L has committed to playing the game, no matter what. But as this move shows, it no longer has a significant say in when the game is played. It's going to take what it gets, and will have to be happy with it.
"Sounds like a good strategy for the rest of us."
RICK: "My greatest fear is simple: Moving the game to the finale creates a reason for one school to say that the game simply doesn't fit well into their schedule anymore.
"You know what: They'd be right. And football fans in Kentucky would be the loser. I hope I'm wrong."