VAUGHT: Bowl official always a Kentucky fan

Perhaps the only person with a smile to equal the one Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks had during Saturday's Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presentation at Rupp Arena was Dale Polley. Polley, a retired banker, is the chairman of the Music City Bowl. More importantly, he's one of us.

He was born and raised in Hopkinsville. He graduated from the University of Kentucky and has worked in Nashville, Memphis, Virginia, Atlanta and then Nashville again. "But I always stayed a Kentucky fan. I was a subscriber to The Cats' Pause since the inaugural issue and I started subscribing to Kentucky Sports Report — and love it — last year."

He had to remain neutral during the Music City Bowl's selection process. However, there was nothing neutral about him Saturday in his blue coat as he stood at midcourt handing a commemorative guitar to Brooks and the Wildcats.

"Clearly as chairman of the bowl I have to have my neutrality, but everybody knows I am a Kentucky fan. I am just thrilled to have Kentucky coming to Nashville," he said. "I felt confident that Kentucky fans would respond to the invitation. They always have, and they love coming to Nashville whether it is for football or basketball. In 1999, they came close to filling the stadium for the bowl, and this time they will."

Since Polley also sits on the selection committee as part of his bowl duties, he readily acknowledged that Kentucky's fan support was clearly an "influencing factor" in UK getting the bowl bid over South Carolina, another SEC team with seven wins that did beat Kentucky.

"We have information as a bowl on how every team has traveled for the last five bowls they have been to. We know how many tickets they sold, what attendance was at the game," Polley said.

"That's always something we keep in front of us. Schools have certain reputations as traveling well and certainly Kentucky is one of those schools that is known to travel extraordinarily well.

"A lot of schools in the SEC do travel well, and Kentucky is certainly one of them. That was a big influencing factor for us. The proximity to Nashville was a factor as well. The team finishing strong was a factor, but how the fans responded in the past coming to Nashville was probably the biggest factor."

So future bowls will look favorably on Kentucky's fan turnout in Nashville? "That is absolutely right," he said.

That means not only will UK fans be helping the Cats hopefully beat Clemson, but they'll also be laying the groundwork once again to impress future bowl committees.

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