Coming into this season, several media pundits made it look as though Mark Stoops was on a hot seat that, in reality, did not exist.
List, after list, after list had Stoops among the college coaches on the biggest hot seats, except he really wasn't, thanks to a $12 million buyout that ensures Stoops is paid the remainder of his contract from 2017-19 if fired before then.
Well, at least not before the first week of the new season came. It started with word that around 10,000 tickets were unsold in the days leading up to Saturday's clash with Southern Miss, an abnormally high number for a home opener, let alone one against a good opponent who will be bowling this year.
Oh, and Kentucky lost this game, in case you missed that. It wasn't just a 'good job, good effort' kind of loss either. It was the signature 'start fast, finish awful' type of loss that's plagued Stoops throughout his UK tenure.
It was the kind that had fans filing out of the stadium midway through the fourth quarter, even though the game wasn't decided (at least on the scoreboard) until two minutes were left. To think how low the number will be in two weeks vs New Mexico State if UK loses at Florida is already a scary thought.
But we had to think this scenario was possible before the season, right?
John Clay seemed to with his preseason assessment of Stoops not being on the hot seat this year. Clay pointed out how Stoops' massive buyout of $12 million should keep Stoops from being on anyone's hot seat.
As bad as things appear to be under Stoops at the moment, we've still not reached the point UK was at under Joker Phillips when only 20,000 fans were showing up to watch the Cats have a hapless showing against Vanderbilt in 2012.
But even Clay himself, whether he meant to or not, provided the scenario to which Stoops could suffer a similar fate to that of Phillips.
Barnhart pulled the plug on Joker Phillips, Brooks’ successor, after just three seasons, but the AD had his hand forced by the cliff-dive in UK’s attendance numbers. When under 20,000 actual fans showed up at Commonwealth Stadium to see the Cats be blanked 40-0 by Vanderbilt, Barnhart had no choice.
Perhaps even more worrisome for UK and Stoops is the downward trend of season-ticket sales, which are close to the number UK sold prior to that dreadful 2012 season (38,000 regular and student season tickets combined).
Look, I don't think UK's attendance will drop that drastically this year overall, but then again, after just two weeks into that 2012 season, I never would have imagined things would get that bad by Week 10.
Everyone has their breaking point, even UK with Stoops and his massive buyout. Money talks, and there is a point where the loss of fans and unsold tickets will outweigh even a $12 million buyout.
Let's just hope things don't get so bad that we're even close to that point. I really believe this team has it in them to rebound and have a respectable season, but there's no question they've put themselves in a bad position not only with the schedule, but their own fanbase as well.
At the very least, UK needs to have a good showing in Florida and then a dominating win over New Mexico State to have the fans 'start' to come back around by the time South Carolina comes to Commonwealth Stadium in Week 4.