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UK/UL Football TV Angst

Ah, the Cardinals.  And the Cats.  Nothing makes a UK or a U of L fan's blood boil faster than a tiff over one of the big games between bitter rivals.

As most everybody probably knows by now, there has been a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing, particularly but not exclusively among the Cardinal faithful, about Mitch Barnhart's decision to move the annual rivalry game from Labor Day weekend to September 15th.

Because of that move, ESPN decided to air other games rather than pick up the UK/UL game, and many in the Cardinal world are vocally and angrily blaming Barnhart.  At this point, the game has no TV home, although ESPN classic has expressed interest.

Why did Mitch Barnhart want to move the game?  The Cincinnati Post has the answer:

Barnhart said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks "wants to have a better opportunity to have our players ready. This year, for example, we're going to go through the process of redeveloping our offensive line. He wants them to have their feet on the ground a little bit."

But what about all the heat you're going to catch from some for doing this?  Barhnhart says this in the Courier-Journal:
Barnhart is aware that if the game isn't picked up by a national cable network, he and Brooks will be criticized for moving the game off a weekend in which it had found a TV niche.

But Barnhart said UK wanted to move the game in the interest of giving its team the best chance to compete, and he doesn't regret the decision.

So if we accept Barnhart's position at face value and distill it down to it's essence, he is saying:
"I don't care who likes it or who doesn't.  We are moving the game in order to give our players the best chance to win.  I'm going to do all I can to get it on TV, but if our best efforts fail, so be it -- I can take the heat."

Folks, I don't know about you, but I can live with that.  To be fair to Louisville fans, though, I have no doubt that if the situation were reversed, we would be griping just as they are.

Mike at the Card Chronicle, the SB Nation Louisville site, had a blog the other day critical of both Barnhart and Dr. Lee Todd (although I never really understood Mike's explanation as to how Todd got included), and I had a nice exchange with Mike and a rather pointed exchange with several of the other denizens thereof.  Let's break down the arguments:

From the Kentucky standpoint, made mostly by me and Mitch Barnhart:

  1. This was a reasoned decision, arguably in the best interests of Kentucky, that UK, particularly the O-line, needed a few games under it's belt before taking on a national powerhouse like Louisville has become.

  2. Louisville surely had some input into the decision.

  3. ESPN is more to blame than anyone here for TV not picking it up.  They have several games of far lesser national interest on that day -- they just want to show us how important they are.

  4. If the Cardinals are such a hot national draw, it seems ESPN would have bumped even one of the bigger games if necessary to get them on, especially playing their biggest in-state rival.

  5. A competitive UK/UL game is in the best interest of both schools.  See the Indiana/Kentucky high school basketball all-star game for what happens when one school dominates for too long.

Some additional UK points, made to me in an email by reader Bourbonseeker:
  1. Thank you for bringing up the point that UL isn't exactly a name draw for this game either.  Most notably, this is their second or third biggest game of the season (Rutgers is debatable).  Yet, UL doesn't have the national pull to get it on TV.

  2. The argument suggesting UL draws many of the largest ratings on ESPN in college football is a bit of a fallacy.  Most major games are played on the weekends (and not on ESPN).  On those weekends SUBSTANTIAL competition exists for eyes.  A game appearing at 1:00 must compete with other national and regional coverage.  Weeknight coverage of college football competes against prime time programming drawing a separate viewership.

  3. It bears remembering that the UL-UK game was an easy pick up for ESPN as the first game of the season because it has historically been played on a Sunday (From at least 2001 onward).  Even during that weekend, most games are played on Saturday.

  4. What is it with the UL fan's irrational preoccupation with Mitch Barnhart, in addition to this game?

  5. Both teams can ill-afford a loss.  But a loss to UK in a rivalry game means UL might lose two or three games in a season.  Perhaps this is the difference between a New Years Day bowl or a late December bowl for the Cards.  However, UK's loss, given its schedule and lack of talent relative to the rest of the SEC, could be the difference between bowling and not.  While the financial gain from national TV exposure is great, the payout and national TV exposure from a bowl game would more than make up for it.

From the Louisville standpoint, I offer a compilation of arguments made by both the U of L fans and Eric Crawford of the Courier Journal Note:  Editorial comments by me are in braces, and italics:

  1. It's Barnhart's fault because he wanted to move the game.  [No, Brooks wanted to move the game.  Barnhart helped him make it happen.  I note for the record that Brooks has not been criticized at all.]

  2. It's been played on the same weekend for five years.  [Is this the "That's the way it's always been!" argument?]

  3. It is ignorant to suggest that Louisville might not be as big a draw as we Louisville fans think.  [Can you say "Logical fallacy?"  I knew you could.]

  4. ESPN shouldn't have to change games to pick up ours.  [Poor ESPN ... How could we be so cold?]

  5. This will cost UK more than Louisville.  [Then you should be happy, not complaining]

  6. What this game should be about is creating a "national buzz" about your program.  [What can I say?  I was under the apparently mistaken impression it was about winning a ball game.]

  7. A UK victory will be "diluted" from lack of TV exposure.  [Really? You don't think such an upset would be big enough news on its own?]

  8. It's all Barnhart's fault!  [You said that already.]

  9. Did I mention this is all Barnhart's fault because he moved it?  [Yes.]