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UK’s Barnhart Against A 9-Game Schedule

Mitch-BarnhartFile this under “No Surprise.”  Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart wants no part of an expanded, nine-game conference schedule:

 

“Nine games is not something we favor.  I do not think a nine-game schedule would serve Kentucky well…

History says it’s very difficult for us to have the level of depth, the second, third, fourth lines of players, that some of the other schools in our league have just as a means of their in-state recruiting situations.  When we have to play a long line of league games, it’s a grind, our teams can get beaten up physically.  It’s better for us, for our players, when the schedule allows us to have some so-called breathers, so that our kids can sort of restore themselves physically in-season.”

 

Translation: “We’re weak.  We know we’re weak.  We don’t foresee a day when we’ll be strong.  So we need cupcakes on the schedule.”

Barnhart isn’t the only AD in the league to make comments like this.  Mississippi State’s Scott Stricklin has said that his school needs pastries, too (though we send kudos to MSU for taking on Oklahoma State this year).  Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has said he’s against a nine-game schedule, too.

Simply put, you can be sure that most of the traditional non-powers in the SEC hope to avoid a nine-game schedule.  OK.  They have their reasons.  Everyone wants to win games and everyone wants to go to a bowl game.

But do any fans really want to hear their school’s athletic director say that their program has to have “breathers” in order to win and reach those bowl games?  Where’s the ambition in that?  Where’s the confidence?

Laugh if you like, but any school can win.  If Kentucky had beaten Alabama to the punch and hired Nick Saban in 2007 is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe UK would be competing for SEC titles today?  In addition, it should be left to the fans to make the “we’ve got no in-state talent” argument.  Barnhart’s job is to find someone who can recruit kids from inside and outside the Bluegrass State.  That’s the lay of the land.  It can be done.  Some of UK’s SEC neighbors have proven it can be done.

In terms of NFL draft picks produced by SEC states, Tennessee and Arkansas rank at the bottom of the SEC along with Kentucky.  Tossing out Ivy League schools, Tennessee is one of the 10 winningest programs in the country all-time.  Arkansas is in the all-time top 20 for victories.  No in-state talent?  Recruit out of state.

Hey, we get that Kentucky doesn’t have the tradition or the recruiting base of some of its rivals.  But an athletic director admitting that his school can’t succeed without “breathers” and patsies?  Sorry.  That’s just not what an SEC athletic director should be saying.

 


16 comments
Lupin
Lupin

So, would he like it if we played 9 games and threw out the worst loss?

WillieT
WillieT

I am not sold on the 9-game conference schedule. While there are ups & downs with every team and within every conference, when you look at those programs that are currently at the top and competing for the BCS championship, THOSE teams are playing 8 league games & usually at least one quality non-conference game (at least attempting to with a marquee opponent). You think UGA wants to play 9 league games, plus Ga Tech, plus the SECCG just for a chance @ the BCSNCG (or playoffs)? 

With all due respect to coach Saban (Roll Tide!), Bama's got Ole Miss & MSU on the slate every year. Please, I'm not dissing on the teams from Mississippi, but historically, they've been on the bottom half of the SEC. Adding a 9th means Bama would play, from the east UT plus potentially TWO of the other East powers, same as before expanding to 14 teams. In seasons where they potentially play two of the East weaker programs, Bama could still consider going out and scheduling a neutral site game against say Oklahoma or Nebraska or Michigan or Ohio State to bolster their strength of schedule. UK may not be UTC or North Texas (historically speaking) but with an eye toward the playoffs & national title implications, Coach Saban's support for a 9-game league schedule actually makes his job easier. 3 or 4 years out of 7, you have quality league games (from a SOS standpoint) which means only having to line up 3 or 4 quality OOC games during that stretch.

From the standpoint of the lower half of the SEC, not so much. While EVERY program wants to put a quality product on the field (better games => better fan support => better booster support => more revenue), no one seriously wants to watch their team get beaten and beaten up time and time again. Call 'em patsies if you want, but struggling programs need a little more scheduling flexibility.

Consider UK. Coach Stoops is going to work his hind end off to build a winning program that can compete for the SEC East and conference crowns. Right now, he needs to bag some wins. UK fans don't seriously expect the Wildcast to defeat USC, UF,  or UGA in 2013. But in 2014? Maybe not a win but certainly they'd like to see them put a scare into one of the east powerhouses and by 2016, a "Signature win" will be needed if Stoops is to continue hauling in quality recruiting classes. Realistically, if Stoops can lay the foundation and start getting those wins, then UK can work on strengthening their OOC schedule. I'll bet UK fans would be down right full of themselves if in 2017 Stoops has the Wildcats in the SECCG. They wouldn't even need to be competitive in that game - just be IN IT!  If playing three patsies makes that possible, then go for it. 


All in all, I think that if the league remains at 8 games, those programs hoping to make the playoffs will find a way to strengthen their schedules with quality OOC opponents. Those that are more concerned with just making it to a bowl game, will schedule accordingly.


ConnGator
ConnGator

@WillieT While I still support a 9-game schedule (partly for the selfish reason of wanting to see more quality games) I think your last paragraph is spot-on as long as we are at 8 games.  How about a Pac12/Big12 vs. SEC challenge in the meantime?  The weakest 2/4 teams in SEC can opt out.

WillieT
WillieT

@ConnGator @WillieT  I think it is difficult for leagues to put such a challenge together given that OOC scheduling has historically been left to the schools. Besides, would you really want to see your Gators face their regular SEC gauntlet with LSU from the West AND Bama from the west while also playing Texas or Oregon? OK, YEA, you'd love to SEE it but would coaches really want to do that? Realistically, I'd say if they don't think they need the added SOS, they'd rather opt out and play La Tech.

buzzardroostus
buzzardroostus

You ask if Saban would be able to win at Kentucky. I agree that Saban would be able to produce winning seasons at UK, MSU, Ole Miss, & Vandy, but I'm not so sure he'd win a SEC or National title at those schools. 

nashorn99
nashorn99

Boy did your article just throw Coach Mark Stoops under the bus. Wow. I guess the recruiting class he put together in two months after the Joker was fired doesn't count for you does it. I guess what he is doing in recruiting so far this year is shabby as well.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@nashorn99 

Uh, and I guess your reading comprehension isn't too good.

You just read an article saying that Kentucky can succeed in football -- please find me another article written by anyone outside of Lexington that says that -- that says the school can recruit out of state and says that UK's athletic director is selling his program short.  

Your response?  You think it's somehow an insult.

Mark Stoops has done a nice job on the commitment front, but I'm not going to crown him as a great recruiter until he finishes up his first SIGNING class.  As I said on UK play-by-play man Tom Leach's radio show Wednesday morning, I like what Stoops is doing and I think UK needs to continue to back his program financially... just as Vanderbilt has invested in its program under James Franklin.

For someone to read the above article and take it as anti-Kentucky, well, that's really sort of sad.

John

nashorn99
nashorn99

Per you it's barnharts job is to find someone to recruit instae and out state, hello he done this. Maybe your reading comprehension isn't so good. Or did you forget what you wrote in your own article. But it's okay, I understand Stoops is starting to scare some traditional thinking. UK, has to be put in its place.

mowens75
mowens75

Maybe with the ACC and the SEC both now pretty much owned by ESPN this could happen. I don't mind playing a 9 game SEC schedule, but I do understand the complaints from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. Let's hope we go to 4 conferences and start a playoff similiar to the NFL. That way all schools then could play 10 games within the conference and 2 other big time schools in one of the other 3 conferences. Dream on...right?

HoustonVol
HoustonVol

Instead of a 9th conference game, I would rather see the SEC pair up with the ACC and B12 for marque games for the fans. The ACC schools that are not already locked into SEC/ACC rivalries could rotate with ND and a SEC school. The B12 could do the same with a couple of schools looking to improve their conference schedule. Of course the SEC/ACC could go all in and match up all 14 schools. The current 4 rivalries could be maintained, while the rest of the conferences rotate. ND could participate at their request.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@HoustonVol 

That sounds good and we've written about an SEC/ACC challenge... but contractually it would be hard to pull off.  We've already seen a Big Ten/Pac-12 deal fall apart.  SEC schools most likely won't want to lock themselves into the ACC or Big XII if those leagues could change their scheduling plans and pull out... leaving SEC schools to grab FCS foes and destroy their own strength of schedule numbers.  And those other leagues won't sign any scheduling contract that doesn't have some sort of out.

Would it make sense and money?  Yes.  Could it happen?  Possibly.  Will it happen?  Doubtful.

Personally, I'm amazed at the number of SEC fans who come to this site and say they have no interest in playing more teams inside their own league.  That's very surprising to me.

Thanks as always for reading,

John

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

The biggest issue in all thsi for Kentucky is that Louisville with Charlie Strong is getting it done. the went out and got an out of state QB phenom in Teddy Bridgewater, they have been coached up to play better all aroud football. And now they are winning games and going into an expected good year. Sure, they could flop, but that will not take away last year's success and Sugar Bowl victory.  And this is a team located IN the state of Kentucky that did not have to give up or loss anything off of their high level Basketball program to do it.

ConnGator
ConnGator like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JarrenBlake Nothing against Louisville (they wanted the Sugar Bowl more and beat Florida soundly), but they did not play the same schedule that Kentucky did.  If they were to go undefeated this year would you put them in the title game over a one-loss SEC team?

JarrenBlake
JarrenBlake

@ConnGator @JarrenBlake Many would, if it does happen you can believe that they will get in over even a 1 loss SEC team. Not saying I would agree with it or not, but it would happen. However, UK cannot use the conference as a scapegoat not to go out and ball, period. If Vandy and Ole Miss do not, neither does UK. Also they played Kentucky, and won, and its an early season game. So the grind of the SEC was not a factor in determining who won that game and was the better team. You can say Lousiville did not have the SEC slate, but they also lacked the SEC resources. There is no reason for the Kentucky program to have fallen behind like is has, save for bad coaching. My opinion is that a UK type school should schedule abit mroe competitively Out of Conference early in the year. If you take out some name teams in other conferences, even if just mid level teams, then you show that your not a doormat. Maybe you struggle in SEC but abroad you have some teeth. 

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