Vaught's Views: National exposure helps UK

August 12, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

By agreeing to play at South Carolina on a Thursday night, the Kentucky football team will get exclusive national coverage on ESPN.

That's a big plus for any program, especially one like Kentucky that is struggling to establish consistency and starts the season with its third head coach in the last four years.

It was an easy decision for both teams to make because neither one plays the week before. Each had an open date and this way will not only have ample time to prepare for the game, but will also have an extra two days to prepare for the next game.

"It breaks up that bye week and gives us national exposure. It's a good thing," said Kentucky coach Rich Brooks.

The Oct. 9 game will start at 7:30 p.m. That means even the youngest UK fan will be able to watch at least half of the game before worrying about heading off to bed on a school night.


That type of national exposure is important, which makes it seem only logical for Kentucky to also keep the same date for its annual game with Louisville. For the second straight year, ESPN2 will televise the UK-Louisville game Aug. 31. It's the only football game that fans across the country can see on that Sunday night. The NFL has not started and no other college game will be televised.

Brooks may need to rethink moving Louisville game

It's instant exposure for the Wildcats and is one reason Brooks may need to rethink his position on wanting to move the Louisville game to a different date. Maybe it would be better for the Cats to open the season against a lesser opponent and get a guaranteed win before taking on the Cardinals. However, that has to be balanced with the positives of playing Louisville to start the season.

Just ask Draak Davis. He's the talented running back the Cats are counting on to help offset the loss of Artose Pinner. A year ago he was set to start his junior college season in California and had no idea who Pinner was or what kind of team Kentucky had.

Then he watched the UK-Louisville game on ESPN2. Kentucky had not contacted him at that time. But when Brooks and his staff took over, they used their junior college connections to start pursuing him. He says he paid more attention to what the Kentucky coaches had to offer because of what he had learned about Kentucky on that national telecast to start the 2002 season.

That's one reason Kentucky officials probably should not have hesitated when asked to move the South Carolina game from Oct. 11 to Oct. 9. UK has played in Thursday ESPN games four other times, all on the road. The Cats have turned down chances to host ESPN Thursday games because of well-founded concerns about whether there would be enough parking for fans.

Moving game can be major problem for fans

However, moving the game does have one drawback. It can be a major problem for many fans.

One local fan had already signed up to make the trip to South Carolina with Travel Crazy, a tour company that arranges UK football trips. The tour was scheduled to leave for Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Oct. 8 and stay three nights at the beach before going to the game on Oct. 11.

What will that group do now? No one wants to drive to Myrtle Beach on a Wednesday, bus back to Columbia for a Thursday game, go back to Myrtle Beach for two nights and then bus back to Lexington.

Another friend planned to start a vacation with his wife by leaving on Oct. 10 for South Carolina. After watching the game on Oct. 11, the couple planned to head to Hilton Head, S.C. for several days. Now they have a problem. His wife can't get off work Oct. 9 to attend the game. What do they do with the tickets they've already bought? What do they do about their vacation plans? He certainly doesn't want to drive to the game, come back home to get his wife and then head to South Carolina again.

How hard would it be to set these Thursday games when the schedule is released? TV dictates numerous changes in kickoff for Saturday games -- and that can also be a major inconvenience for fans who make plans hoping the game times won't change. However, moving a game from Saturday to Thursday is a big problem for those die-hard fans who were planning to make the road trip.

Perhaps the national exposure Kentucky gets from playing on ESPN more than offsets the inconvenience it causes some fans. However, if getting the national exposure at South Carolina is that important, then surely keeping the Louisville game at a time when the same national exposure can also be obtained has to merit the same priority.

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