Here are five benefits to Kentucky making the move to an artificial turf playing field:
1. Stoops indicated that the university grounds crew does a great job, but the maintenance required for natural grass doesn’t allow the coach to practice his team at Commonwealth Stadium as much as he would like.
That keeps coaches from having as many “walk-throughs” and “dress rehearsals” as they would like. And many coaches just like the atmosphere that is created when a team practices inside the stadium.
2. Recruit speed. The Air Raid offense is built on an up-tempo attack with speed, speed, speed. Of course, all football teams want as much speed as possible. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown appears to favor the quick, shifty backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield and make tight cuts on the turf.
It has long been thought that turf fields favor faster teams. Texas Tech under Mike Leach played on turf. And Brown was offensive coordinator for the Red Raiders after Leach departed.
3. Takes weather out of the equation. As the second most-northern school in the SEC — Columbia, Mo., is now the northernmost school in the conference — there is always a chance that inclement weather can play a role in UK’s November home games.
Remember the old days of Commonwealth Stadium, when the grass was brown during the winter? You might also remember when UK coach Fran Curci would switch benches and make Florida stand in the shivering shade while the Cats stood on the sunny side.
4. Maintenance. Field turf is more expensive to install than a natural grass field, but the maintenance costs are lower. The money UK spends on watering, fertilizing, mowing and other maintenance could go to other things that the football program needs.
Maybe a bigger recruiting budget?
5. Get the high school football finals to Lexington. The KHSAA football finals have been staged in Louisville, both at the old Cardinal Stadium and the newer Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. In the past few years, the title games have been played in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University’s stadium.
UK could not host the finals because its grass field couldn’t stand the multiple games being played in such a short time. That would change with field turf. And you can bet that Stoops will make a push to have the games at Commonwealth Stadium for recruiting purposes.
By the way, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt are the four SEC schools that currently play on artificial turf.
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