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Stoops The Latest Football Coach To Get The “UK Basketball” Question

KENTUCKY MEDIA DAYSJoker Phillips.  Rich Brooks.  Guy Morris.  On and on all the way back to Paul “Bear” Bryant.  Kentucky football coaches are always asked about playing second-fiddle to Wildcat basketball.  Today, Mark Stoops became the latest guy to have that question lobbed at him.

Like all his predecessors, Stoops played down the issue.  He praised John Calipari and said he enjoys being around him.  Like Phillips when he took over, Stoops said that UK’s basketball success should be a positive for football.  He also added that the fans have already proven to him that they will support football moving forward.

It was an answer we’ve heard before.  It was a question we’ve heard before.

The reality is that come October, UK fans will start turning their attention to basketball and why wouldn’t they?  They’re expected to have the best team in the nation.

Would Cat fans continue to support a football team — even in October and November — if it’s in the race for an East Division crown?  Probably.  But there’s no proof of that.  First, because we haven’t seen Commonwealth Stadium packed to the rafters late in the season and, second, because Big Blue Nation hasn’t been given a title-worthy team to watch in decades.

Watch video of Mark Stoops at SEC Media Days.

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Tennessee’s Streak Over Kentucky Nearly Unfathomable

Twenty-five years in a row.

That’s how long Tennessee’s mastery of Kentucky has lasted.  A whopping five UK coaches have had a hand in the current run:

Rich Brooks was 0-7 against the Vols.  Guy Morris was 0-2.  Hal Mumme was 0-4.  Bill Curry finished 0-7 in the UK-UT game.  Jerry Claiborne lost his last five meetings with the Vols.

Claiborne was the last Cat coach to get a win in the series back in 1984.  Overall he was just 1-7 against Tennessee.  The last Kentucky coach to record multiple wins against the Volunteers was Fran Curci who went 3-6 in the rivalry… before the NCAA caught up with his rule-bending ways.

To find the last six UK victories in the series, you have to go all the way back to 1959.  Add it up and you’ll see that the Big Orange has topped the Big Blue 45 times in the last 50 years.

Last 6 Kentucky Wins Over Tennessee

1984 — 17-12
1981 — 21-10
1977 — 21-17
1976 — 7-0
1964 — 12-7
1959 — 20-0

You just don’t see that type of dominance in the SEC.  The teams are all too well-funded.  Recruiting is too rich.  Parity has arrived. 

Face it, even Vanderbilt has beaten Tennessee twice since 1982. 

The Wildcats have had their chances against the Vols.  In 2005, Tennessee lost to Vandy and finished with its first losing record since 1988, yet the Vols still closed the season with a 27-8 whooping of the Wildcats.

In 2006, Tennessee slipped by a Kentucky team that would finish 8-5 and beat Clemson in a bowl.  UK had the ball deep in Vol territory in the closing minutes but a crucial delay of game penalty proved costly.  Final score: 17-12 UT.

In 2007, Brooks’ Cats would again go 8-5 and would beat Florida State in a bowl game.  Against Tennessee, UK had a chance to knock the Vols out of the SEC Championship Game.  But quarterback Andre Woodson missed a wide open receiver in the end zone and UK had a chip shot field goal blocked as UT survived — again — 52-50 in four overtimes.

In 2008, a Tennessee team that had lost to Wyoming and struggled with Vanderbilt crushed bowl-bound Kentucky 28-10.  The Vols finished just 5-7 on the year.  The game was the last for Phillip Fulmer as the Vols’ coach.

Last season, UK once again came close to snapping the streak.  But in overtime, the Cats ran just three plays and then missed a field goal attempt.  Much to Cat fans’ dismay, not once in the extra period did Kentucky get the ball into the hands of Tennessee-native Randall Cobb… who had already accounted for 156 yards rushing, receiving and passing.  The Vols won 30-24.

Memories like that make Tennessee’s streak especially painful for UK fans.  We’re no longer talking about a Nebraska-Kansas or Notre Dame-Navy type talent difference.  Kentucky has been on a much more even plan with UT in recent years.  And they still haven’t been able to break through against their hated rivals to the south. 

Tomorrow the Cats will have a chance to knock Tennessee out of a bowl game.  Again, UK enters the game with a better record than the Vols.  But if the game is close in the fourth quarter, you’ll have to forgive Kentucky fans — and perhaps players — if they begin to have doubts.  They’ve all lived through quite a few nightmares when it comes to this series.

(Sidenote — If Kentucky has no problem with Maker’s Mark putting images of its coaches on bourbon bottles — and they don’t — then it’s time for UK and UT to reinstate the Beer Barrel as the trophy in their rivalry.  It was the only SEC trophy recognizable to a national audience.  And it’s time to bring it back.)

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