UofL-UK contract to impact high school football

It's too soon to predict if the change of when the annual meeting between U of L and UK on the gridiron will have an affect on the interest in football in the Bluegrass, but it's disappointing that the possibility wasn't considered.

The debate of when the annual Louisville-Kentucky football game should be played - or not - will continue on for at least four more years. The arguments - or excuses - range from gaining experience for a very young team, to U of L already ruining the opening game tradition when it played New Mexico State prior to UK in 2001.

Under the terms of the new contract, Louisville will continue to face Kentucky in the season opener when the game is played in the River City, but when in Lexington, it will be played a few weeks later into the season.

"Well, obviously I'm disappointed that we're not playing it that way," U of L head coach Bobby Petrino said of the change. "Tom [Jurich] did a great job of keeping the series and really, that is what's important."

However, while fans from both sides will continue to debate the logic, or lack thereof, a critical element of the growth and interest for the sport within the Bluegrass State has been seemingly forgotten.

"I don't think it is going to hurt our program at all," Petrino said following the 14th-ranked Cardinals Thursday morning practice. "Unfortunately it might hurt some of the younger kids and their excitement for football. That's the only thing we lose."

Known primarily as a basketball state prior to renewal of the game in 1994, the state of Kentucky has watched as the quality and quantity of high school football talent has sharply climbed since the series was restarted.

"I've seen football come to new heights in the eight years I've been here," said U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich on Thursday morning. "C.M. Newton and Howard Schnellenberger told me when I got here that high school football was a dead issue. But this game meant a lot to [improving] that."

While it's impossible to predict if the change in the schedule will have an effect on high school or not, it is disappointing that the possibility wasn't factored in the decision making.

"We were at a stand-still," said Jurich, explaining what prompted yesterday's deal. "He wanted what was best for his program and I wanted what was best for U of L. I also thought what we wanted was best for the state. But that's OK, we'll move on with the game."

For Petrino, while he's disappointed in the change, he says that it is time to put the issue to rest.

"Right now what we need to do is concentrate on getting our team ready for the game and hopefully we'll never have to talk about it again."

Louisville, which has won five of the last six meetings, including three straight in Lexington, will travel to Commonwealth Stadium on September 4th for the 18th meeting in the series.


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