“I would boot Vandy and Kentucky out of the league and replace them with Clemson and Virginia Tech.”
“I honestly don’t know what to say about Kentucky football. Sometimes I have to remind myself Kentucky is still in the conference.”
“Kentucky is not a legitimate SEC football school. Seven years of Rich Brooks in the 2000’s (the Wildcats played in four straight bowl games under Brooks) might be as good as it ever gets.”
These are the words—in 2014—of SEC football radio and television personality Paul Finebaum (and his co-author Gene Wojciechowski) in the book, My Conference Can Beat Your Conference: Why the SEC Still Rules College Football.
Now, in fairness, they also threw caveats in there including “maybe Mark Stoops will be the exception (to the pattern of overall failure at UK),” and “(Stoops) could end up being the savior of that program.”
But by in large, let’s just say the authors didn’t spend much time (at least halfway through the book) saying very complementary things about UK.
As we zip oh so close to the start of the 2019 college football season, coming off a wildly successful 10-3 2018 campaign, what does Finebaum think about Kentucky now?
How about the January 1st, 2019 tweet following UK’s victory over Penn State?
“Congratulations to Kentucky for an amazing win and extraordinary season. So excited for Mark Stoops and Big Blue Nation. What a story.”
And there’s this recent July 19th Q and A response to Rick Bozich:
BOZICH: “The flip side of the discussion is they did lose Benny Snell, they did lose Josh Allen, they did lose Mike Edwards. They lost some very talented players.”
FINEBAUM: “Of course they did. But not to sound like a coach here, but those guys were developed. I think that is the thing that Stoops is doing very well. He’s got a lot of good coaches on that staff. They’re going out and identifying players and they’re making them into better players. I think that’s how you build. Listen, I’m not sure I would have bet on this six or seven years ago. It seemed like a very long, arduous process. But I’m really glad it happened.”
Most anyone would have had a similar opinion of Kentucky in 2013, and most people would have complementary things to say about UK today. The point is to simply take a moment and be thankful for this turnaround. It was not easy. It required buy-in at all levels—the coaches, the administration, the players and the fans.
Kentucky is on the map. They’re in the discussion. People are eager to see if Kentucky can double-down and maintain course following last season’s success. These are exciting times, and considering the excitement of the SEC Network/ESPN and the continued popularity of both Paul Finebaum and his “The Paul Finebaum Show,” it’s neat to see the turnaround and respect through the man himself.
Let’s hope the Cats are ready this year to give Paul and all the other pundits more reason to jump on board.
The season cannot get here fast enough.