Taylor's Thoughts: UK football is national

Kentucky football is national. Unlike the past, the Wildcats aren't gaining national attention because of probation and losing seasons that have plagued the program. Before last season, Kentucky hadn't produced a winning season in three years. Things were bleak.

Back then, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, not his football team, was often the topic of discussion. The seat in his office got hotter with each passing season.

Critics wanted a change, but Brooks stayed the course and his athletics director - Mitch Barnhart - believed in the man he hired to get the job done.

That was three years ago, and things have changed here in the Bluegrass. For the better we might add.

How much better?

Kentucky football is getting the respect it hasn't seen since Bear Bryant held the keys to the coach?s office in Lexington.

Other coaches since Bryant have enjoyed the same success for a period of time. Fran Curci, Jerry Claiborne and Hal Mumme were somewhat successful, but all three coaches didn't endure the same hardships that Brooks has dealt with since he came out of retirement to resurrect the program from the ashes of probation.

The team has had its standard allotment of fans, both those who remained faithful through the thick and thin and the others who were like feathers in the wind and followed the latest trend.

Those two sets of fans have finally united and others are jumping on the bandwagon.

Longtime Kentucky basketball fans have suddenly discovered a passion for Kentucky football. Those not familiar with football, especially of the Kentucky variety, now find themselves making up for lost time.

Many of them can't help but show a little love for Kentucky's football team.

On the unofficial fan scale, interest in Kentucky football is at an all-time high. In fact, Kentucky's 1977 team wasn't in the spotlight like this one has been for the past two weeks.

Talk about the football team is scattered all across the Internet, the talk shows and media outlets both regionally and nationally.

Although Kentucky got off to a 4-0 start five years ago, that team didn't beat a Top 10 team and win its Southeastern Conference opener in back-to-back fashion.

Those two types of things can get you attention immediately, with no questions asked.

In the case of football rankings, the Wildcats have replaced some football powerhouses in the latest Associated Press football poll released, less than 24 hours after the Wildcats dealt Arkansas a 42-29 setback in Fayetteville. Only one voter recognized the Wildcats in one of the early AP polls. Now 708 voters have taken note of the team's success in the gridiron.

In a space traditionally reserved for teams such as Michigan, Purdue, Alabama, Tennessee and other teams used to a standard spot in the rankings, Kentucky is now listed in the same breath as some of the elite programs in the nation.

Mention the Wildcats and you will find Florida, LSU, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oregon in the same sentence.

The key to staying ranked is winning games of course. Kentucky can't afford a letdown against Florida Atlantic on Saturday and games against Florida, LSU and others are on the horizon.

For now, the Cats are ranked and the fans are loving it.

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