Vaught's Views: Vols join UK, Cards on Sunday

May 14, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

People and things.

* Sunday night football.

Other college football teams are starting to figure out that opening the season on national television on a Sunday night offers great exposure.

Kentucky and Louisville are again scheduled to open the season Sept. 4 on ESPN2. However, Tennessee now has also shifted its home game against UNLV from Sept. 3 to Sept. 4 and ESPN2 has already said it will show the game that night, too.

In fact, Dave Brown, ESPN's director of programming, told The Associated Press that his network considers the Vols one of the nation's most watched teams.


What does that mean for Kentucky and Louisville?

No, ESPN2 is not dumping the Cats and Cards. What likely will now happen is that the UK-Louisville game will start in late afternoon followed by the Tennessee-UNLV game. Maybe kickoff in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium will be at 5 p.m. and the Tennessee-UNLV game will kick off at 8:30.

No starting time has been announced for the UK-Louisville game, but there is no way the Tennessee-UNLV game will not be the prime time telecast.

Still, UK-Louisville will get national exposure and opening the season on Sunday is still the right move. If the game is played on Saturday, it might be a regional telecast at best. This way it will at least still be a national game and don't underestimate what that can mean.

High school and junior college players that may never have seen either team play are more likely to watch early season games and that gives the Cats and Cards a chance to gain exposure. It also allows the host team a chance to bring in high school recruits that might not be able to make a Saturday game.

However, the bad news is that other top teams are now more likely to follow Tennessee's move. Miami and Florida State have already moved their national rivalry to Labor Day the next two years because it will air nationally on ABC-TV.

Hopefully the Kentucky-Louisville game will be entertaining enough this year to make ESPN not want to abandon this game for what it considers bigger-name teams.

* Eddie Montgomery.

This is not the normal sports-related item, but Montgomery Gentry's new album, "You Do Your Thing," will be available Tuesday.

Eddie Montgomery, who lives in Boyle County, and Troy Gentry have already sold more than two million copies of their three previous albums. Don't be shocked if their single, "If You Ever Stop Loving Me," which is on the album, eventually climbs to No. 1 on the country music charts.

No, this album does not contain a song about UK athletics. Montgomery says that is yet to come, but don't doubt that there will be one because the two love the Big Blue.

Just don't look to see Montgomery locally often the next few months. He has a busy tour schedule, including appearances in four time zones to kick off the album's release Tuesday.

* Joe Paterno.

What is going on at Penn State? Legendary football coach Joe Paterno went 3-9 last season and has had losing seasons three of the last four years. He's 77 years old.

But guess what? He got a four-year contract extension Thursday even though his team went 1-7 in the Big Ten last year.

Loyalty should be rewarded. Paterno won national titles - in 1982 and 1986. His overall record is 339-109-3. His team normally has a high graduation rate.

Still, enough is enough. Someone at Penn State should have had the courage to admit a change was needed rather than giving Paterno a contract that will have him coaching 18-year-old players when he is 80.

* Tom Buchanan.

No, Big Tom did not win the $1 million on Celebrity All-Stars Thursday night. However, he was in the final four based on voting by 38 million fans.

That came as no surprise to me. After Monday's column about him missing his son's final college football games to compete on the CBS show, I've had numerous people call, e-mail or tell me that Big Tom was their Survivor favorite, too.

Too bad there's not a way to get Montgomery and Big Tom together. What a pairing that would be.


This really is no surprise. Or shouldn't be. NASCAR has surpassed the NBA in TV ratings.

Since NASCAR started on Fox Sports and NBC, weekly races have drawn audiences that have been more than twice as big as those watching NBA regular-season and playoff games.

This year, Nextel Cup races have averaged about 10 million viewers while network telecasts of NBA games average about 3.4 million.

Of course, if every NBA game was as dramatic as the Lakers' 74-73 win over San Antonio Thursday night, those NBA ratings would rise to NASCAR-like levels.

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