A tale of Kentucky athletics and two light shows

Update: ESPN's numbers are in dispute. The 2011 recruiting figure has to do with UK's travel budget for recruiting. It doesn't include campus visits, etc.

The UK football natives are restless this morning, and not just over last night's woeful performance in that (thankfully) weather-shortened 49-7 loss at Arkansas. Turns out Kentucky athletics featured two light shows over the weekend, and the football faithful believe they shed some light on how the two top sports are treated.

As our own Jerry Tipton reported, Kentucky said it spent between $250,000 and $300,000 on the laser light show it used at Rupp Arena for basketball's Big Blue Madness on Friday.

As Bleed Blue Kentucky points out, that was nearly UK's entire football recruiting budget for 2011, as reported by ESPN.

According to ESPN's numbers, Kentucky spent $336,035 on recruiting in 2011, which ranked 8th of the SEC's 11 schools at the time. As a private school, Vanderbilt does not have to make its athletic budget available to the public.

To be fair, the nearly $300,000 UK spent on its basketball light show is almost more than LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina each budgeted for recruiting in 2011. LSU spent $302,882. Mississippi State spent $306,469. And South Carolina spent $248,333.

Of course, LSU and South Carolina are both currently ranked in the Top 10. And Mississippi State is currently undefeated.

According to ESPN, UK budgeted $279,006 for football recruiting in 2010.

The numbers don't tell all the story, of course. UK AD Mitch Barnhart has continually argued that the school's accounting procedures are different than other schools, which skews the numbers. Also, is the recruiting money figure what was requested by head coach Joker Phillips and his staff? Did they ask for more and were turned down?

I do go back to the UK Basketball Alumni Game that was held on the same afternoon of a UK football game that night. It drew 10,000 and received plenty of publicity. If you don't think other SEC schools will use that against Kentucky in recruiting, then you don't know how this cuthroat league works.


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  1. Chris says:

    I think our win-loss record might be the numbers that other schools uses against us. As for the light show, the basketball program at UK deserves the spotlight. You are just trying to stir a hornets nest when in truth your ire should be directed at the terrible hires Mitch B. has made over the years. If football wants more money the try putting a team on the field that looks even remotely coached.

  2. John Clay says:

    Which terrible hires? Gillispie, yes. Others?

  3. John Clay says:

    Plus, I did point out that LSU, South Carolina and Mississippi State all budgeted less recruiting money than UK did in 2011 and have better programs.

  4. gary says:

    Surely UK’s share from Civic Center parking fees more than covered the cost of the lights.

  5. Mike in TX says:

    Fact is our hoops program is allowed to reinvest in itself hiring top coaches and recruiting attractions like paying $300k for Midnight Madness. FB subsidizes all other sports and provides money for academics while the state legislature and university refuse to allow a competitive level of reinvestment. They get enough SEC television money and our fan base is loyal so there will always be enough money to “just get by”. Consequently it’ll likely never change. We need to pay up on better coaching first of all. People who can really teach kids to be succesful on the field. Second we need to commit money the better football facilities. We don’t typically recruit 4& 5 star football players. However athletically and physically we have football players who can match up with other SEC athletes. Obviously some people have natural freakish size, ability or both, but by and large if you’re 6’1″, 220 and run a 4.5, you have the basic physical tools to compete. Being competitive is largely attitude. We’ve all witnessed or partaken in under talented teams that scrap enough to be competitive and win when they shouldn’t. (The Unfogetables led by a great coach anyone?) It may not always be pretty but they don’t give the other team too much respect. Referring publicly to our players as “infants” and instructing our cornerbacks to give 10 yard cushions sends them the wrong message. That they can’t compete. We need coaches that create the ” eye of the tiger”. We also need coaches to run a learnable system playing to our collective abilities and who teach players subtle tricks of the trade to help them get an edge. You need to pay for top assistant coaches for this. The ESPN study exposed the gap between our BB and FB programs. Good coaches could take our phyical talent and find a way to at least compete young or not. All this talk about a young team is bogus. We just won a national championship in hoops with our main players being freshmen. The difference… Coach Cal is among the most highly regarded and well paid coaches in the country with a great staff and unlimited support. Think about the facilties and attractions…Wilcat Lodge, Big Blue Madness, etc. Our BB players live better than our FB players and it makes recruiting easier. The FB program has been asking for a recruiting room for years that would probably cost less than $300k. The BB team can be 15 players while the FB team is up to 125. Look at the money spent per player. That’s not stirring a hornets nest, that’s just the way it is. The truth is at UK our coaches need to travel more to get talent because KY high school FB is not on par with say FL or TX. Bama and LSU treat their top FB players the way we treat our BB players. Add in their tradition and it’s no wonder the top recruits go there. Success would start with investing in a top flight coach and giving him the money for a top flight staff and facilities to attract top recruits and create a winning atmosphere. Investing in a coach makes a difference. South Carolina was our equal or worse. They made a committment. If Bill Snyder can win at K-State, there is no excuse really. The commitment is on the state and university to provide funding. In the real world it makes sense to reinvest in your most profitable line of business. At UK we are a study in behavioral investing. We spend more per capita on BB because hoops makes us feel good. Meanwhile FB provides more money, but we don’t invest because we might not win in the rough and tumble SEC even though success could mean millions.

  6. Mark Liptak says:

    I agree completely that an entire cultural change needs to be made regarding UK football in ALL aspects…from recruiting to facilities to a massive improvement in the stadium… HOWEVER that does NOT exclude Joker and his cadre of clown coaches from liability.

    He took over a program that with ‘creative scheduling’ (LOL) was able to at least churn out a winning record and be considered a middle of the road SEC team. You can’t say that now by any stretch. That’s not because the basketball program gets to spend a ton of money on a light show is it?

    Regarding the basketball light show cost, you reap what you sow.

    UK basketball is the “gold standard” in the sport, they earned it because of 100 years of excellence. The only thing UK football has generally earned in the past 50+ years is scorn and derision and in many cases, MOST cases, it is well deserved.

    Mark Liptak

  7. Brian Springs says:

    Excellent post. I don’t criticize UK for promoting basketball, they should. However I can’t understand why UK and the UK fanbase is so apathetic when it comes to other sports. Indiana has Notre Dame. West Virginia has WVU. Ohio has Ohio St. & Cincinnati. Kentucky has Louisville all of these programs are successful in both basketball and football. Louisville is quickly passing UK in terms of national recognition and national prominence(not to mention facilities) on the sports scene and UK and its fan base seem to barely notice the sand shifting beneath their feet. If these programs in our neighboring states and our own for that matter can be successful why can’t we. To tie back into the article it IS the budget spent promoting other sports and the public response.

  8. Mike in TX says:

    To be clear on my previous post, the stat and university are perfectly capable of raising capital appropriations for football without taking anything away from basketball. UK hoops has earned and deserves the gold standard. It’s really about making a genuine commitment to elevating our highest revenue producing sport. It makes good financial sense and doesn’t have to affect or change our BB roots one bit.

  9. Juan4UK says:

    Well, I think the Athletic Department has hidden behind “creative accounting” enough. Time to break it down I think. Surely they know that someone will be able to keep up when they explain it to us fans.
    Let me say this: UK fans are an outstanding fanbase. The apathy, the boos (which I do not agree with), the yelling about the program and commitment to it, the low attendance, etc. All of this is a reflection of a fan base who is fed up with being at the top (or bottom) of every other teams anecdotal record book. (Longest win streak, largest margin of victory, most points in a game by a 3rd string qb, rb, te, lb c, de,cb etc)
    Anyone who suggests that these fans are the issue with the UK program are out of their depth as well is ill equipped to discuss it.
    The UK fanbase is fed up with decades of crap. Resilient, I say! Resilient but fed up. Mitch and all those involved would be well served to take notice.

  10. Bobby Stringer says:

    I’ve been a football season ticket holder for a long time. I’m finally ready to give up my season tickets. I don’t have faith in the U.K. administration to do anything about the deplorable situation that our football program is.