The heart, the heart of a fan that wants to see his/her team compete at the highest level, had to be thrown out the door in order for me to be able to write and have those written words looked upon with reverence and validity.
I promised myself that my own affection for the Wildcat football and basketball teams would never interfere with my ability to be a professional journalist.
Unfortunately, that promise is going to have to be broken, right here, right now.
Down by the slimmest of margins, a young man with a last name similar to John of the Unforgettables booted a 50+ yard field goal to win the game, save the day, and reel me in.
This was a time when I had no earthly idea of recruiting, how good Cincinnati should or should not have been. It was just a glorious win in dramatic fashion.
Little did I know what pain I was setting myself up for in the future.
My next Kentucky football game? I get chills of horror with the very thought of it I'll surmise: Bill Curry, South Carolina, late night, bad seats (well before the endzones had been enclosed) and 3+ hours of ridiculous boredom. It was bad offense and bad defense. The score was low only because the offenses happened to perform worse than either defense could muster.
On the hour drive home to Louisville I asked myself if maybe I should forget my hopes and aspirations for a winner in my football Cats. Eventually I landed upon the inevitable conclusion for most Kentucky football fans when I asked the questions….who else am I going to root for, Louisville? Cincinnati? Indiana??? TENNESSEE????
I'd rather lap up some dog snot.
So here we are in 2004, with the same ole Kentucky football question marks at the beginning of the season. It's the preseason, Kentucky is undefeated, but a tough opponent lays front and center on September 5th to blemish the W-L column in a hurry.
Kentucky needs better Offensive Line play, it needs its quarterback to play better than he ever has in his career, it needs consistency and luck with injuries, luck with ANYTHING, calls to go its way, fumbles and interceptions that actually benefit the cause to win…but despite all of those factors Kentucky needs something that it just does not have right now.
It's the age old' question for Kentucky fans; just when is the team going to pick up that monster recruiting class with studs from end to end, a class that will make the Gators shiver and the Volunteers weep in failure.
Well, it will never happen until two, small, tiny, itty-bitty little actions are finally executed with fantastic repercussions. These two events do not involve precision recruiting tactics by Joker Phillips. They do not involve a spectacular new weight facility, new practice fields or 12kt gold locker rooms. It's not better fans, better stadiums, more money, new uniforms, a winning 2004 campaign or recruiting violations.
It's not a new coaching staff.
Sure, all of these things may help these two occurrences, well, occur. But the two beings of beauty to the football program are solely dependent on people who may have nothing to do with the University until they take their action.
Take a Chance
For years upon years Kentucky has taken a chance on recruits that may or may not end up being starting contributors, but it is going to take two huge, nationally known, sought after by everyone and their chipmunk's best friend to take a chance on Kentucky for the next step to be taken.
Until this happens, no recruit will ever believe the hype. The coaching staff can talk and spit and growl until their lips fall off about how improved the program will be, about the new direction, about the SEC and NCAA championships to come to no avail.
Without the two big "gets", Kentucky will at best be middle of the pack. Its not talent that wins in the SEC, its talented depth, and until the players who have that talent across the country understand that Kentucky can win, and win big with their help, all of that hard work could be for naught.
This message is true for a lot of programs around the country, not just Kentucky. The same is true for the school an hour to the West. The Tim Couch's, Dennis Johnson's, Brian Brohm's, and Michael Bush's of the world do not count. They get the hype from the local media, they see it, and feel the possibilities on a day to day basis.
It's when a kid from recruiting rich states that is a lock for the "big boys" decides on one of the little ones, Kentucky grows up a little. The very moment the Cats go nationwide in recruiting the big boys, Kentucky becomes a big boy.