Regardless of the outcome or even the competitiveness of Saturday's game against Western Kentucky, it should be the series finale.
Yes, I realize that there is still one more matchup set at LP Field in Nashville, but it's time to explore buyout options. There's no point in playing a game on a week night, hours from campus, at a neutral site in front of an intimate gathering of diehards, players' families and WKU fans in a 60,000 seat NFL stadium. It will just look embarrassingly bad on television and, in the end, Kentucky may even come out about the same financially if the right buyout can be reached.
Next year's game is just a blip in the big picture of the series as a whole, though. This game is an absolute one-way street as far as which program benefits from it, and that street leads directly to Bowling Green. All Kentucky managed to gain from the initial contest was the sound byte of the 2011 college football season, "They ‘spose to be SEC," a WKU infamously said after the Cats struggled to post a 14-3 win. Quite the feather in the Big Blue cap.
I am of the belief that Kentucky should have never even have started playing Louisville in football every year, but the damage has long since been done there. The UofL program is routinely perceived in a more positive light than the UK program despite the fact that the Cats play in the SEC and, going into this season, had won four of the previous five meetings. One of the ESPN commentators for the season opener even mentioned that the Cards have "dominated" the series of late. Nonsense, of course, but that is the perception many have.
There's no reason to help Western in the same way that Kentucky helped Louisville. The next time a four- or five-star quarterback or running back comes out of Kentucky high school football I will concede the point that he is probably not going to pick Western over Kentucky.
What about the kids out in the state who are invited to be preferred walk-ons at Kentucky though? Or asked to redshirt. Or grayshirt. Think those kids might decide instead to play for Western Kentucky, who has available scholarships right away?
Um, yes. "We play Kentucky every year, and in 20XX we even beat them at their place. We'll give you a free ride to come here, and you can show the Cats exactly what they missed out on by not offering you."
Not a bad alternative for a Kentucky high school football player with limited means to pay for school. Those Kentucky kids who might be asked to grayshirt or redshirt or come to UK as a preferred walk-on add up over the years. They are the backbone of the Kentucky program. Having those kids in program and practicing with the team is how depth is built for a brutal SEC schedule.
The entire idea of having a football series with Western Kentucky is just bad for Kentucky football. Why in the world would a school that struggles to compete in the talent-rich SEC want to help legitimize and strengthen another school in its home state that it will be competing with for recruits? What's Kentucky gain by beating Western? A potential "W" and absolutely nothing beyond that.
College athletics is a billion-dollar industry in this day and age. It must be treated as such. Kentucky football cannot afford to help build another program within its own borders as it struggles for legitimacy in the SEC. End this series now. Do not renew. Do not even play next season.
With major conferences switching to nine-game conference schedules (the SEC will soon follow), thus reducing the number of available non-conference dates, there will be plenty of cheap non-conference opponents from outside this state's borders to be bought for a sure win in Commonwealth Stadium every fall.
Should the UK-WKU series continue?
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