Sunday, October 14, 2012

0 Cantucky

By Jason McDonald

The Kentucky Wildcats football program has been piñata for the SEC for a long time now. But when broken open the only thing that pours out is depression and lowly regarded bowl games. After this year they might be begging for a lowly regarded bowl game. They’re terrible and they might even graduate to garbage before the season is done. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Contrary to what many people think, Kentucky football can be relevant. Some people might try to convince you that there’s no hope for Kentucky football. And they might try to tell you that they’re purely a basketball school and could care less about football, and this may be true, but they could be something special with right personality at the wheel.

Kentucky should have jumped on Mike Leach before he took off for the northwest. Granted, Washington State has looked less than mediocre, but the broader point is that Kentucky football needs a fire starter, whether it’s Mike Leach or some other borderline lunatic coach. When you’re in the SEC and success is gauged on beating giants, you can’t expect to battle them head-on, especially if you’re a weaponless dwarf. Kentucky needs to look to the west, specifically at Oregon. Oregon has had plenty of ups and downs as a program, but has become more consistent under Chip Kelly. They have a thousand ugly uniforms to choose from and a ton of swagger. They also have new ideas and identity that translates to the field. So why not Kentucky?

There’s no rule that says that your school can only be good at one sport. Look at Tennessee, look at Florida. Both have had success in all the major sports to some degree. Even Vanderbilt is attempting to make the push in football, and there’s certainly more excitement around the program than ever before. Kentucky has everything those programs do and maybe more in some areas. They have appeal, identity, and swagger…within their basketball program. That’s entirely the result of hiring Coach Calipari. Coach Calipari won a national championship in three years. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they could win a national championship in three years, but they could easily become relevant again.

It all comes down to the basics. They need to recruit. They need a defense for the SEC that can at least put a speed bump in the path of a power running game. You can’t compete if you can’t stop anyone. And they need drastic changes on offense that can scheme well against the juggernaut defenses that they face week in and week out. They need innovation. How they get it, I don’t know. But people act as if its impossibility and it’s not. Maybe they need to go after Bobby Petrino; maybe they need something more drastic.

What they definitely need is some excitement around the program. Kentucky fans can’t take it on the chin; shrug it off wait for basketball season. They need a bit of anger and should demand answers. And they should be embarrassed that Louisville and Western Kentucky are Kentucky’s relevant football teams. They are currently 1-6 and look it. It’s a game where other teams go to hang an easy win. For the best teams in the SEC it’s no different than playing a team from the Sun Belt. In some cases they’re less threatening than a Sun Belt team. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If Kentucky could take some of that juice that they reserve for basketball season and put it towards football, then they could have something good in not much time at all. The right coach and the right attitude could make Lexington a nightmare stop for any team.



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