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Rumors Of UK-To-ACC Just Column Fodder, Nothing More

Personally, I enjoy the writings of Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story.  (I’m sure he’s thrilled with that fact).  But there’s one drum he won’t stop beating and it’s leading to me having to answer a whole lot of emails.

Over the weekend, Story suggested that due to Kentucky’s poor football history, the Wildcats should consider leaving the SEC for the more basketball-friendly ACC:

“UK basketball, having proven beyond all doubt it can dominate a football-first SEC, could test itself in a hoops-crazed ACC against the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse.

Kentucky football would move intoa  league not nearly so top heavy as the SEC, yet could retain its current recruiting pipelines into states like Georgia and South Carolina (because UK would still be playing against Georgia Tech and Clemson in those states).”

Sounds good.  Makes sense.  No wonder such a simple “what would you think about this” column has spawned a thousand messageboard posts and a few dozen emails to my inbox.

But this is just someone tossing something up against the wall to see if it sticks.  And Story did the same thing last year, too.

When the Big Ten was rumored to be on the expansion hunt last summer, these words appeared under Story’s byline:

“For a singular reason, I think it would behoove the University of Kentucky to at least consider trying to become part of the Big Ten’s expected expansion process. 

That reason is football.

UK and the overwhelming majority of its fan base may see Kentucky as a basketball school, but even here in Lexington it is football that brings home the financial bacon. …

Even with the presence of traditional titans Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, history says there is significantly more chance for football upward mobility up north.”

Story is a columnist.  As a writer, his job is to provoke thought and start talk.  Unfortunately, in the internet world we now live in, it only takes a few folks who don’t understand his mission to begin the “UK’s leaving for the ACC!” rumor mill in earnest.

I’m amazed how many times in our own comment boxes that readers will suggest I include something in my story… that I’d already included in the story.  The lesson: Many of us don’t finish a read — or stop to consider whether a story is a news article or an opinion-based column — before we start thinking of how we ourselves should respond.  Either in a comment box or on a messageboard.

Thus the emails I’ve gotten today saying things like this: “I heard over the weekend that the ACC is keen on Kentucky and the Cats want out.  Is this going to happen?  What are you hearing?”

Uh, no.  It’s not going to happen.  Kentucky is a founding member of the nation’s most successful athletic conference.  (Sorry, Pac-12, we don’t count cross-country ballroom dancing as a sport.)  UK is in a league that is incredibly stable, the school makes money hand over fist, and it has a voice equal to all others in the conference.

In addition, there’s is no bad blood between Kentucky and any of its conference-mates, a la Texas A&M and Texas.

That leaves the most likely UK motivation for leaving the SEC as fear.  And personally, I can’t recall any major schools jumping leagues out of fear.  Money, stability, and academics?  Yes.  Geography?  Yes, that too.  But the desire to tuck tail and run?  Nope.

Keep the Big Blue Nation in mind here, too.  Kentucky fans are basketball crazy.  Are we to believe they would sacrifice some basketball success in order to achieve a bit more football success?  Because just as Virginia, Wake Forest and Maryland would be easier foes on the gridiron, Duke, Carolina and Syracuse would present a very serious upgrade on the hardwood.

So whaddya think?  That Cat fans would be happier with a third-place finish in ACC hoops so long as they could notch another couple of football victories per season?

Sorry.  Not buying.

Florida State is a school that is said to be open to discussing a move from the ACC to the SEC.  They’re viewed a football school in a basketball league… the opposite of Kentucky.  But unlike UK, an FSU move would add cash to that school’s coffers.  The Cats would take a paycut.  Also, the ACC lives in constant fear of a Big Ten or SEC raid.  The SEC doesn’t have to worry about such stability issues.

Story was doing his job and tossing out an idea.  Unfortunately, that mental spitball has launched a wave of rumors about UK and the ACC “seriously” flirting with one another.

But this website will say the same thing we said when it was rumored Arkansas would leave for the Big 12 and Vanderbilt would leave for the Big Ten — we’ll believe someone’s leaving the SEC just as soon as they actually do it.

 


25 comments
bdevil90
bdevil90

As a Duke fan, I just wanted to say that it's nice to see a forum where sports fan exchange interesting viewpoints without devolving into the usual message board flaming. I really enjoyed reading all your posts. I actually think that Louisville is a more likely add to the ACC than UK. I recently read that Louisville's basketball program is the 21st most profitable college sports program, apparently making it the most profitable basketball program: http://businessofcollegesports.com/2011/06/20/whi.... Plus, Louisville has a pretty decent football program. Personally, I think that if Notre Dame and Penn State both give the ACC the kiss-off (which seems likely), I think the ACC adds Louisville and Connecticut, unless Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech object on football grounds. I also don't think this happens soon.

John
John

MrSEC is right that UK shouldn't leave and never will. But personally I wish they would. They add nothing in football, and no one else in the SEC cares about basketball even a fraction as much. I think Tennessee fans, for example, would trade the entire Bruce Pearl tenure for one BCS bowl appearance over the same stretch. Basketball is just filler until football season at most schools, and from this standpoint UK is already more like an ACC school.

Look at the SEC basketball tournament. You can't get tickets to sessions that include UK, because they care so much more. But it is also because the other schools care so much LESS. UT, UF, and UGA fans have just as much money to travel and support basketball as UK fans, but no one else has more than a passing interest for the most part. UK is, and always has been, a basketball school in a football conference.

But I agree, it would be a bad idea for UK to leave and they will never do it. Herald-Leader just got a few more page views out of the mere suggestion, which I guess is the point.

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

UF fans do support their program and Vandy supports its Basketball team as well. I know a number of folks at Bama would do so if the program was more competitive on a regular basis. But it will never be football. Aside from some of the power programs and the Northeast corridor basketball breeds empty seats, in some part due to the large number of games played. The NBA is having the same issue, not even the Lakers sell out all their games, which means the Raptors do not even come close.

Truthfully I am glad that we have a school that is consistently competitive in Basketball, its contribution of funds to the conference that we would not see otherwise.

rmft
rmft

to your point, I think UK really helps other basketball programs

when recruiting kids, telling them they'll get to play against UK every is a big selling point (it goes without saying these are the kids UK passed on, as Calipari took recruits 1-5 on the rivals 100 and called it a day)

its also is a sellout game wherever UK plays, even during down years and boosts excitement for that game, and if they can beat UK, for the program

rmft
rmft

Bama supports its program when its good

we had a great year last year (at least towards the end) and were selling out game after game. When Bama is competitive in basketball, fans show up in full force, and we have a pretty big arena that we fill up

I think we'll be in full force this year, Anthony Grant has the program inspired and fans excited and we have a lot of players coming back and fans are pumped thinking about the possibilities if this team gets it going early. I expect Bama will be an SEC contender next year and we'll be playing in front of a packed house in tuscaloosa

(obviously though, fans dont pay attention to basketball in Alabama until January after the Football season... but come January, we'll be there ready to rock it out)

John
John

Anthony Grant is doing a great job down there, and I think Bama will only continue to improve as long as he is there. But the university is simply not committed to basketball. Coleman Coliseum isn't a great gym, and in the SEC is probably only better than LSU, Ole Miss, and State in terms of being kind of a dump. Not trying to insult, it's just that when you look at Bryant-Denney Palace and all of the money that has been spent making that place awesome the basketball situation has been mostly ignored.

Florida has been an excellent program in basketball, but plays in a weird, unsightly inflated bubble. The only SEC schools that have recently shown a commitment to their basketball programs in terms of facilities in recent years is Arkansas (Bud Walton), Auburn (brand new, but small), Tennessee (complete renovation on a massive arena), and Carolina (although their arena, like their stadium, isn't really theirs). I know Georgia is doing some modest improvements and Ole Miss and UK are considering their options.

The bottom line is sure, an SEC basketball team like Alabama or LSU or Georgia can be decent for a few years and sellout the UK game, but the fact remains that basketball is an afterthought on most campuses and will continue to be until serious money is put into programs in terms of practice facilities, coaching staffs, and arenas.

John
John

The bubble in Gainesville is rarely full, and wasn't even on the heels on back to back titles. According to last year's figures from the NCAA, the Gators averaged just over 10,000/game. That's in an arena that seats just 12,000. On a campus that has 50,000 students alone. I wouldn't call that support. I would call that 47th in the country.

Vandy is the same story as UK, just with better academics and worse basketball.

Obviously Bama fans would support a good team, just look at Tennessee. Fifth in the country in attendance last year in a renovated NBA-like arena. But it's because UT was (kinda) good. Watch what happens now that Pearl is gone. UT fans supported the basketball program to the extent that it did only because the team was winning. Not because UT fans really care all that much about basketball.

That being said, it is certainly good for the league overall to have a basketball power in it. But personally, I think their drag on football outweighs their basketball value in a football-first conference.

rmft
rmft

good points, you are correct that when the product isn't very good, the fans all but disapear

In the south, football fans still show up for SEC games to hope for an upset... but with basketball, if you aren't a competitive team the seats are empty

UK is obviously the exception

The Noid
The Noid

I love how the Herald-Leader (who started this rumor/opinion), then asked Joker in today's press conference what his thoughts on the possibility of leaving the SEC was. Awful journalism.

Tim
Tim

I am a diehard UK fan, and I love the idea of playing Duke & UNC more frequently. But UK should never and will never leave the SEC. And yes, I realize that it is probably a forlorn hope, but I keep hoping one day UK will compete in football. Sigh.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Tim...

Here's my standard question for folks who think School X can't compete in the SEC: "What if they hired Nick Saban?" Now, we can debate whether or not Nick Saban -- or someone of his ilk -- would go to Kentucky or Indiana or Duke, but if a school can find the right coach, yes, it can win. Just a matter of finding the right guy.

Thanks for reading,
John

gatortown
gatortown

Thank you. Kentucky fans, excellent B-ball but football is embarrassing you? You want to be in the top ranks in BOTH? Why you hiring guys named Joker?

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill

because apparently some of the higher ups are not as concerned about FB as some fans are. if the FB team doesn't improve this year, then joker may be gone. if that is the case, some fans may go head hunting if they don't bring in a high profile coach. the money is there. there is no excuse for UK to not be competitive in FB (notice i said competitive and not winning the division).

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

Anyways, I find it funny that anyone took that article seriously. I read it for an opinion piece and nothing more. Nothing in it said that UK was pondering a move or had any interest in doing so. Taking a paycut to go to a basketball conference that will in the end net them no more prestige than they already possess seems like a non starter to me.

rmft
rmft

agreed- this is as big a joke and non story as the one about Navy to the SEC

if you take something like that seriously, the joke is on you

Tyler B
Tyler B

UK basketball and Alabama football... the two most sensitve groups of fans in all of college sports. Hell, maybe in any sport in the world. I live in Kentucky and briefly played football for Bama so I say this with confidence.

rmft
rmft

Shaun Alexander? Is that You? Good to see you last weekend at the game!!

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

I played UA football as well, did not feel them to be anymore sensitive towards their program than the other top SEC programs.

Tyler B
Tyler B

Just talking about the fan base as a whole, and certainly not indivisuals. Every team has their fair share of "crazy" fans...

ukalum87
ukalum87

Third place finish in the basketball ACC hmmmm.......interesting comment.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

ukalum87...

Good Lord people look for ways to be insulted. If you think Kentucky would walk away with an ACC title every single season, bully for you. But I'd be willing to bet Duke, UNC and Syracuse would be a little tougher to crush each season than Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Clearly, what was meant was that UK would have a tougher time in the ACC than in the SEC. But I should've known someone would be outraged at the suggestion Kentucky couldn't coast through the Atlantic Division of the NBA if it chose to go there.

Stop looking for insults and focus on the point. Would you trade basketball wins for football wins or not?

John

ukalum87
ukalum87

My goodness you are sensitive. All I said was interesting comment and you jumped all over it. That would be a lot of fun to watch with those four playing two games every year. I wasn't insulted. Believe it or not all UK fans are not the same but it seems like you and many other folks wrap them all together.

Razorback
Razorback

I took the comment the same way. Woo Pig!

rmft
rmft

hahaha I can only imagine

everyone thinks you are biased against them!!! you must work for ESPN!!!

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

ukalum87...

Get the emails I get everyday from 12 fanbases ALL finding some hidden insult or some perceived slight and you'll see where I'm coming from.

And I'm guessing anyone reading your comment took it the same way I did.

But I appreciate you reading,
John

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