Outgoing coach Joker Phillips suggested earlier this week that he knew that his fate was sealed as Kentucky’s coach when he looked into the Commonwealth Stadium stands last week and saw more silver benches than people. If you didn’t see the “crowd” for yourself, it was really more like a gathering than a crowd:
The fact that UK announced the attendance for the Wildcats’ game with Vanderbilt as 44,902 led The Lexington Herald-Leader to file an open records request in the hopes of learning exactly how many tickets were actually scanned — not sold, but scanned — upon people’s entry into the stadium. The paper got the records. And the real attendance on Saturday… was just 18,885.
Most spring games in the SEC draw more than 19,000 fans. Many Texas high school games draw more than 19,000 fans.
The school provided the numbers for UK’s other home games this season as well. The number of fans who actually had their tickets scanned at Commonwealth Stadium this season is as follows:
Kent State game — 37,000
Western Kentucky game — 43,174
South Carolina game — 35,086
Mississippi State game — 29,927
Georgia game — 33,420
Vanderbilt game — 18,885
UK’s listed capacity for the stadium is 67,492 but that number includes players, coaches, stadium personnel and others not included in the tickets-scanned numbers. Still, these digits give us a clue as to how much money UK has been losing this year.
Through six homes games, UK could have sold 404,952 tickets this season. The announced combined attendance for those games — meaning: tickets sold — was just 251,591. So about 150,000 more tickets could have been sold.
The actual number of scanned tickets and passes equaled but 197,492. About 200,000 more people could have attended Wildcat football games. That’s a whole lotta concessions, merchandise, programs, and the like that went unsold as well.
Lose that kind of money and you have to make a coaching change. Period. So in that sense, Kentucky fans truly made their voices heard by not showing up to watch Phillips’ team this year.
Unfortunately, they also proved that UK has one of the least-supported football programs in the Southeastern Conference. This fact always upsets Cat fans when it’s pointed out, but do you think — even in a terrible year — Rupp Arena’s actual attendance would ever drop to just 27% of capacity as was the case with the Cats’ football game against Vandy on Saturday? No way.