So the deal is done. WKU and Kentucky are officially bedmates for the next four seasons, starting in 2010. After looking at it, I’m not totally convinced this is the best thing for WKU. Look at the facts:
- The Toppers’ “home games” will be played at L.P. Field in Nashville, this giving 30% of the profit to Music City Bowl, Inc. who rents out the field to the series, so money for a game between two Kentucky teams stays in Tennessee. That’s not a great move in this recession. The remaining profit will be split 60% WKU and 40% UK. Not bad, this could be a bigger payday if they played the home games at Smith Stadium. I can’t see how UK wasn’t for games at WKU, when they would probably see as much blue as red in the stadium. Sure, the seating is less than desired, but why not pack a 23,500-seat stadium with at least half your fanbase, rather than fill half a 68,000-seat stadium with it?
- UK is giving WKU a $500,000 payday for coming up to Lexington for each game. That’s less than most mid-major schools get for coming to a big-conference program, with an average that pushes the $1 million mark. This could be a sign of one of two things: Either WKU Athletics Director Wood Selig is trying to show that the Toppers aren’t looking for just a money game, or they were so desperate to get a game with the states biggest school and establish a new “rivalry” that they took a little off the top to get it.
- Last season’s game finished 41-3 and could’ve been worse had UK coach Rich Brooks not called off the dogs in the third. A lot of Western’s players are gone (including quarterback K.J. Black, who turned out to take his final snaps in a WKU uniform in that game), and the Toppers will be playing a number of redshirt freshmen and little-used players with a smattering of veterans, who will be a year older next season when it all starts. Timing-wise, this series might benefit WKU by starting in 2010, though UK will reload as well, so time is the only barometer at this point and it’s too early to call.
- Going back to the issue of the money (and where it might be spent): shortly after the inking of the series, Selig told the Bowling Green Daily News that the new side of the recently-renovated Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium is ready for the addition of new seats if the opportunity arises. The school is about to become $500,000 richer, and that money would be a great start to helping the stadium get bigger and better. The neglect of the old side of the stadium has raised some eyebrows in the community and the media, but we’ll have more on that later in the season.
Either way you look at it, this deal seems to have as many cons as pros. And Selig, the same man who told me he hopes to have Notre Dame ( yes, THAT Notre Dame) as one of WKU’s rivals in the future, has lived on both sides of the fence when it comes to matters of whether he believes the program is taking baby steps, or should skip right to locking horns with the big boys with the true intent to contend.