By now we have all heard about what Mark Stoops said about the "toxic environment" in relation UK fans. There has been a lot of backlash towards him for saying this, but frankly, I agree with him. I'll even go one step further and admit that I am a part of that "toxic environment," sometimes.
Now, I never bash the players on social media, but I do let out frustrations from time to time relating to the team as a whole, we all do whether it is subtle or blunt.
We, as UK fans, expect a lot out of our football program. Here are a few justified reasons:
- Money: The amount of money that is spent on UK athletics as a whole is a bit disheartening. The budget for UK Athletics stands at $104 million and over the course of the past five years the average money spent on athletics grew by 58% while the average money spent on academics grew by only 24%. That's proof that the school is investing more in athletics than the average student. In regards to the football program, over 140 million dollars alone has been invested over the past five years to improve it. Fans look at it as a waste of funds and turn on the program when things don't get better.
- History of greatness: It's no secret. UK basketball hurts UK football a lot because of the storied tradition. It hurts fans expectations for football, football recruiting, and the overall view of UK football. Every year UK basketball is nationally ranked and usually maintains that ranking all the way to March Madness when they perform at their best. This gives UK fans an out to say "at least we have basketball season," when football isn't looking so hot.
- The recruiting class/coaching staff: When Mark Stoops was hired in 2013 he was able to increase our recruiting ranking from 64 in 2012 to 29 in 2013. That alone created a lot of buzz. In the preceding years, he had the 18th, 34th, and 31st ranked recruiting class in the nation. This not only shows UK's growth in recruiting over the past five years, but it also shows that the best he's been able to do with these recruiting classes is 5-7. Fans are mad. When you put as much money in to a program, invest a lot in to a coaching staff, and increase significantly in recruiting, it is supposed to equal success (bowl game). So far it just hasn't.
Although these are all justified reasons to expect a lot from UK football, they are not justified reasons to treat the players, coaching staff, and overall program like fans have been. There has to be equality. If we treat one sport one way and another differently, where is the fairness in that? It is hard to turn a program around, especially one that was so bad before and when you have a toxic fanbase.
The true meaning of being a fan is sticking it through the tough times, no matter how tough. Not turning on the players and coaches the second that there is no improvement. Not saying that there is basketball season when Kentucky still has multiple games to go to make a bowl game and prove themselves. We as fans need to rally around this team and make sure they know we are behind them no matter what, bowl or no bowl, because this is our team.
I plan to support this team throughout, do you?