Friends of Coal to sponsor UK-UofL game

­By Mary Austin

Friends of Coal will be the “signature sponsor” of the football game against Louisville this Saturday.

The organization aims to inform Kentuckians about the coal industry, and the $85,000 agreement is funded by the Kentucky Coal Association.

While the contract is set, opinions vary.

Lane Boldman, publicity chair for the Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club and a Lexington resident, said she thinks this move is counter to college policy.

“It’s clear that the coal industry has won the favor of the campus,” Boldman said. “There is a difference between being a good corporate citizen and using PR to look like one.”

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the sponsorship is not going against university policy.

“Sponsorship of an athletic event does not mean endorsement of a product or philosophy by the university,” Blanton said. “Sponsorship simply means that the entity purchases time and access to the audience at the event.”

With the political involvement and controversy of the subject, Boldman sees it differently.

“It concerns me that they’re being this aggressive,” she said, “What will the industry gain?”

Bill Bissett, the president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said the association wanted to sponsor this particular game because of the in-state rivalry.

“We as an industry need to communicate with the population centers, Lexington and Louisville,” he said.

Bissett said the association hopes to send the message that “4.1 million Kentuckians benefit from low-cost electricity thanks to coal production,” also adding that half of the proceeds from the 43,000 Friends of Coal Kentucky license plates will be given to UK students pursuing a career in coal-related fields.

While Boldman said she and the Sierra Club fully support the coal mining jobs and economy, she said this is a big public relations move. She noted the continuing problems with acid runoff and problems with the burning of coal.

“Other campuses are retiring their coal-fired power plants,” she said, “The university has an old one that should be retired.”

UK has also accepted funds from Big Coal to build what will be named the Wildcat Coal Lodge, a move that prompted the renowned Kentucky writer, Wendell Berry, to pull his papers from UK archives. The building will include an exhibit on “the importance of the coal industry to the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Allie Kleinhenz, a nursing senior, said there shouldn’t be a controversy.

“At football games, they advertise for so many things, Kleinhenz said. “I think people are looking to have political arguments over it, but (the coal companies) do a lot for us.”