UK, WKU columnists sound off on fan allegiance

UK tailback Josh Clemons runs into the endzone during the first half of UK's season opener against Western Kentucky at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Monday, Sept. 1, 2011 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Brandon Goodwin | Staff

Attending WKU doesn’t make students indebted to its athletics

By Cody Porter
cporter@kykernel.com

Ask Western Kentucky football head coach Willie Taggart his favorite color and he’s likely to tell you red.

Evidently that should be the same answer for each and every member of WKU’s nearly 21,000-student body.

On Monday, Taggart hastily reacted to a reporter’s question about whether or not seeing students adorning UK colors is troublesome to him.

“Yeah it bothers me any day, not just because it’s UK week, it’s just. (pause) I can’t say that. (pause) It’s just, it’s not good. Whether it’s respect or not it’s just (pause) It don’t make a lot of sense. You know, you wear another school’s shirt, jersey, whatever it is, and you don’t go to school there. That makes no sense at all. Everybody wears it and I hear people ask them why they do it and the reason they’re at WKU is probably they couldn’t get into UK. And then they want to support them, it just doesn’t make any sense at all (pause) I just can’t say that,” Taggart said.

He later somewhat apologized via Twitter, claiming it was his passion for his school that sparked the comment. But, we all know he likely got a good tongue lashing behind closed doors.

Saturday’s shutout at the hands of Alabama may have left the coach a little delusional, especially after he called the Tide an NFL expansion team who could beat five or six current pro teams. And he went on to add that the Hilltoppers could beat the Tide.

Speechless? Just let it sink in and I’ll continue.

Much like the Tide, UK is a member of the Southeastern Conference. It is home to college athletics’ top crop of teams.

All due respect to them, the Hilltoppers are in the Sun Belt. Its football program just recently entered the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I).

UK is among college basketball’s great teams, and while WKU has been competitive as a “mid-major,” even in that realm it doesn’t live up to the status of UK or any other national power.

Growing up, I — and I’m sure many other college sports fans — found a connection to a certain team. It may have been because of family, friends or even a favorite player that resulted in their fandom sticking.

These instances usually revolve around traditional powers of programs’ respective sports.

I’m sorry, Coach Taggart, and any loyalist to the school, but it’s just not the same.

You’ll hardly, if ever, hear, “Dad, please find the Western game on TV. I can’t wait to watch us play. They’re great.”

Replace “Western” in the previous quote with UK, Texas, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke or Florida State and it fits like a glove.

My generation can familiarize with this. It is what it remembers because these teams were a constant on the tube, whether it was basketball or football.

It’s when diehard fans are groomed.

Simply going to a school doesn’t make you indebted to its athletics program.

Louisville fans, whose plea against blue would be far more valid, isn’t going about business by belittling its students because of the fandom they were raised with.

Because trust me, if Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said those words, this state would be on the brink of war, if not already in ashes.

At the end of the day, most prospective college students realize they must find the school that is geographically, financially or academically suited for them.

The University of Kentucky has its sports and academic perks, but in its own right, WKU has its advantages.

Take a glance across the page to WKU College Heights Herald columnist Caitlin Herrington — think she cared what the school’s primary color was? Probably not. Given WKU’s success in the field of journalism, she set her sights on aiming to be the best journalist she could be.

I myself even considered WKU, but Lexington was closer than Bowling Green, with a rivaling journalism program.

So, two days removed from the game, Willie Taggart — although prior to my college experience I never thought I would say this — it isn’t all about sports.

P.S. Hilltoppers fans, if you see your football coach out in a Stanford Cardinals shirt (running backs coach, 2007-08), be sure to let him know that’s a different shade of red.

 

Even if they’re raised UK fans, WKU students should bleed red

By Caitlin Herrington
editor@wkuherald.com

OK, I get it. You’re a born-and-raised Kentuckian. You were brought up to “bleed blue” and adore all things rogue feline. You yelled “Go Cats” and knew the fight song by the age of 5. UK has that whole national championship/eyebrow thing going. I get it — I do.

But somewhere along the way, you grew up and made one of the biggest decisions in your 18 years of living — where to go to college.

And that’s when the bleeding turned to red — which, by the way, is anatomically correct — and a conflict was born.

That conflict hit a high note when our occasionally tongue-tied football coach mentioned that he doesn’t like Hilltoppers wearing UK gear on the Hill.

Yeah, it sounded bad, but I’m glad he said it.

When a student has been wearing royal blue since birth and makes the choice to attend the school to the west, that student is making that decision for himself (or herself). It wasn’t based on the fact that their momma’s brother’s cousin’s dad’s entire family — if they even went to college — attended UK since the beginning of time. It was based on the fact that, for that particular student, WKU was the better choice.

And that’s where my intolerance of the mass of blue shirts walking around the Hill begins — especially this week.

Nobody forced UK fans to come to WKU. If your life goal was to get into UK, and Willie called it right and you didn’t get in, shouldn’t it be considered a blessing that WKU would be here for you? If that was your goal, why didn’t you transfer to UK once WKU had given you the tools you needed? If you’re such a die-hard UK fan, wouldn’t you want to support that school in every way possible — including with your tuition dollars?

I’m not of the opinion that you can’t wear gear from other schools — that’s ludicrous. But I am of the opinion that you should support the one you attend.

My family heritage is tied to Mississippi State. I’ve gone to State’s games and I’m glued to the TV when they’re playing. And, yes, sometimes I wear Bulldog gear to class. But should the stars align and WKU be slated to play State, I’d proudly wear red and wave my towel. I expect nothing less of the UK fans on this campus.

My pride, my allegiance and my heart will always be with WKU, because I CHOSE this university — as did the other 21,000 students on the Hill today. It was based on academics, yes, but being fully immersed in this school means supporting WKU through thick and thin. And what an exciting time this is to be a Hilltopper!

I wouldn’t trade my experiences on the Hill for anything, and if these UK fans can’t say the same, maybe they’re in the wrong place.

If their loyalty has been to UK since birth, maybe they should go to Lexington. Or maybe should grow up and realize that they’re here because WKU offered them something that UK never could.

 

I am a hilltopper fan but I was born and raised UT Orange-and still cheer the Vols on to this day. After I graduated when UT played WKU in Knoxville I wore WKU red in a sea of orange. Stand by what you choose-GO TOPS!

Where you get your academic degree and which school(s) athletic teams you are a fan of are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS! If a student at WKU is an NFL fan and wears a Cowboys jersey, is criticism and intimidation of that person what the Hilltopper athletic department expects from it’s coaches and fans? I can see coach Taggart being upset (and enforcing discipline) if members of his football team/staff wear anything but “RED”, but he was (and still is until he apologizes) out of line and out of step with reality in his comments. I’m sure the administration sent him to bed without any supper behind closed doors. The brain’s connection to a tongue is harder to control than a finger’s connection to a cell-phone, but the same warning applies: “DON’T PUSH SEND!”.

Its simple if you go to WKU…then support them!!!. When you get in the real world and people see that you are UK fan they are going to ask you ” UK fan? that’s cool when did you graduate?” UMMMM I didn’t I just like them..ohhh? See its simple, with the exception of the Ivy League schools the best way for a school to get national attention is thru athletics. So, to all of the people currently attend WKU why cheer for UK? Your degree will be from WKU so wouldn’t you want to support them and do all you could to make them more nationally known, which will mean when you go into an interview for your first job as a WKU grad don’t you want the person interviewing you to say…hey ive heard of WKU they have a good….?????

As a WKU student, I’m glad that Taggart made a point about WKU students wearing UK gear on campus. To Cody: We know better than anyone else how young our football program is in Division I-A, so naturally we aren’t going to have the traditions or the fan base that others schools at this level of competition can rely on. That being said, that level of support has to start somewhere, and I say right now.

Also, I sense a little bias, so I wanted to point something out to you, just in case you weren’t aware. You claim that WKU “doesn’t live up to the status of UK”…but we sure did last year, especially when you look at how each team performed against LSU. UK put up 7 points and 155 offensive yards against LSU. WKU put up 9 points and 226 yards of total offense.

Don’t forget our 6 sacks last weekend as the defense got through Alabama’s talked up offensive line.

Oh, and don’t forget about the time when the Hilltoppers from the weak Sun Belt gave the Wildcats from the big, bad SEC a good scare last year at LP Field in Nashville, keeping UK to 91 yards on its first 12 drives, keeping it 7-3 until the last 4 minutes.

I may have grown up a UK fan, but I’m a Hilltopper, and Saturday I wave my red towel.