Apologies to Norfolk State as the innocent party in what is sure to be a contentious debate in the weeks ahead. Never heard of Norfolk State, even more surprised there’s a football team at the Virginia school. Somehow the Spartans wound up as the second team on the University of Kentucky’s football schedule this fall.
That’s beside the point. Apparently Kentucky wants to turn down a nationally televised game against the University of Louisville on Labor Day Monday because the felines would play Norfolk State five days later. The Cards are scheduled to play Tennessee Tech on the same Saturday.
No surprise the date for the game is in limbo again. We seem to have gone through this every year when the two teams play in the first game, with UK looking ridiculous for a few weeks before realizing the advantages of the national exposure.
The Labor Day date is among the best available, serving as the unofficial opening of the college football season. Normally Miami and Florida square off in that time slot. Their programs have declined in recent years so maybe that’s why ESPN wants the U of L-UK match up.
However, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart apparently needs to be prodded and poked once (maybe a couple of face slaps to bring him back to reality?) again this year, telling the Courier-Journal:
“We’re willing to play that game Thursday through Sunday [before Labor Day], and we’ve communicated that to the people at ESPN,” Barnhart said. “We’re not going to play that on a Monday night and give ourselves that short turnaround on a Saturday game. We’re going to have a young team, and we feel it’s in the best interest of our program to guard that prep time and that recovery time.”
In other words, it’s another power play or UK’s officials are absolutely terrified of their second opponent. Barnhart is always going to make things as difficult as possible for the school’s arch rival, regardless of whether he looks like a blunderer in the process. On the other hand, he may be frightened that the Norfolk State game could be the equivalent in football to what the loss to Gardner-Webb was in basketball this season — a national embarrassment for UK’s fragile football image.
After all, Norfolk State did tie for second with South Carolina State in the Division II Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with a 6-2 conference mark and an overall record of 8 and 3. A team to be feared by Kentucky.