UK Athletics faces attendance conflict following selection to Music City Bowl


Kentucky dance team members walk during the Cat Walk prior to the Governor’s Cup game against Louisville at Kroger Field on Saturday, November 25, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Louisville won 44-17. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Chase Campbell

After UK football (7-5) was selected on Sunday to play in the Music City Bowl against Northwestern (9-3) on Dec. 29 in Nashville, many fans had an enormous concern.

The game is set to kick off the same day as the always-anticipated UK-Louisville basketball game, which is being held at Rupp Arena in Lexington. The basketball game is set to be at 1 p.m. ET, while the kickoff of the bowl game will be at 4:30 p.m. ET.

“I haven’t worked out my agenda yet,” UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart said on Sunday evening. “I’ve got to figure all that out, we’ll certainly see what the responsibilities from the bowl perspective are. It’s close.”

Barnhart also doesn’t see the scheduling conflict as a hindrance to the university’s athletic program; rather, he sees it as an opportunity.

“I don’t look at it as a problem, I look at it as a great opportunity and an unbelievable celebration. I don’t know that there’s probably too many schools that have the incredible opportunity, they have two showcase opportunities in one day for your two marquee programs,” Barnhart said.

Two showcase events, indeed. As young fans in Rupp Arena can already be seen showing “L’s Down” during an early-season game against Harvard, the Big Blue Nation is already preparing for in-state rival Louisville to face the Cats with new coach David Padgett in nearly a month. However, the conflict that the bowl game against a ranked team presents means that the entire fanbase can’t be in two places at once.

Both games are also nationally televised on popular networks, as the bowl game will be shown on ESPN while the basketball game will be featured on CBS. That means that anywhere in America, a sports fan can go from 1 p.m. to nearly 7 p.m. only watching live UK sports as the two networks showcase those games.

Barnhart also doesn’t expect the attendance at the Music City Bowl to shrink on UK’s side for the game, as he said that while the SEC requires UK fans to contribute 8,000 ticket sales, Barnhart expects nearly double that amount, saying that he’d hope up to 15,000 fans show up to the postseason event.

UK’s bowl opponent faces no such dilemma, as its basketball team will face Brown on Dec. 30. Louisville also doesn’t have the same scheduling issue, as its football team will do battle with No. 24 Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 30.

The stance from UK Athletics was summed up by Barnhart: “Two really cool parties, got to figure out how to throw them and make sure we host them properly.”