OK folks. What you are about to read is not a typo and it is not made up. So are you ready?
The Kentucky Wildcats drew 50,831 for its annual spring game in Lexington. Yes, 50,831. Not 5,831 or even 831, but 50,831. To put this in perspective, Kentucky drew 4,500 in the 2012 spring game and it’s record for spring until Saturday was in 1987, as they had 20,325 in attendance.
No, the basketball team was not playing nor was Adolph Rupp raised from the dead at halftime. Even after the jokes made at the expense of the pathetic College Football product the Wildcats have presented as SEC approved, this guy has to take a step back and clearly apologize. Evidently, Mark Stoops has changed the culture a lot quicker than this guy or anyone expected. In fact, to draw 50,000 fans, Stoops has done more than just change the culture at Kentucky. He has somehow reinvented it in less than three months.
Now everyone knows the basketball tradition for sure in Lexington. But many, especially all the young whipper snappers 70 and younger, do not realize the rich football tradition Kentucky had. Legendary Head Coach Bear Bryant actually had his first long time gig with the Wildcats from 1946-54 before leaving for the Texas A&M Aggies. Bryant was 60-23-6 overall and 23-19-4 in the SEC including a Sugar Bowl win and a final ranking of seventh in 1950.
“As players and coaches, we feel that passion and energy and we want to deliver,” Stoops said in the post game press conference. “We want to get this done and deliver for this state, because we deserve to have a great program. It was a great night for the program. Really appreciate the fan support. Just an unbelievable atmosphere. I was amazed. You felt that. You heard these numbers for the past couple weeks. You never know who is going to show up. It was overwhelming. It was fantastic.”
And again this is the same Kentucky crowd that combined for just over 39,000 for its final two home games in 2012. It’s highest draw all last season was around 45,000 against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
Now, does all this mean the Wildcats are going to shock the world and win the SEC East in 2013? Probably not. In fact, let’s just go ahead and say no way in heck is that going to happen. But what it does show is that the proud program is far from dead.
In fact, if the fans can continue this type of support, the days of winning will return a lot sooner than later in Lexington.
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.
Follow him @woodysmalls.