As Governor’s Cup Ends An Era, Its Identity Remains Unclear

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When the whistle sounds to end tomorrow’s rivalry battle, somewhere a bagpipe will play “Amazing Grace.” The Governor’s Cup as we know it will die, and in its place a made for TV late season tilt will emerge.

While you’d be hard pressed to find someone sad to see the end of week 3 battles between the Cards and the Cats, there is something special about the red and blue starting the season against each other.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich reiterated his opinions Thursday at a Rotary Club meeting that he wishes the game could have remained towards the beginning of the year, but thought it was most important that the tradition continued.

In Lexington, the lack of enthusiasm for the Governor’s Cup battle continues. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart told the Courier Journal Friday “at the end of the day, my job is to protect the long-term best interests of our football program…My priority is to give us the best chance to make a run at the Southeastern Conference East title.”

Translation: We’re not too thrilled to keep getting whooped every year by Louisville.

But who can blame the Cats?

StrongStoops
Whether Strong or Stoops takes the crown, the Governor’s Cup is still in danger of being lost.

Despite the relatively small spread, tomorrow’s game figures to be a bloodbath. If the Wildcats weren’t able to handle the mighty offense of Western Kentucky, it is highly unlikely Heisman front runner Teddy Bridgewater will have any issues with Kentucky.

If the Cats are so tired of being shelled by the Cards, then why did they extend the series? The answer is ESPN. National exposure is key for Mark Stoops’ recruiting machine. As Kentucky waits out the proposed addition to the SEC schedule, it is becoming clear that Louisville is just a placeholder.

Barnhart is on the record in his opposition to a nine-game SEC schedule, but the increased revenue could be a bigger pro than the embarrassment his team gets every year from the Cardinals. Since the rivalry was renewed in 1994, the Cards have won 11 of the 19 games.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals must make a statement in Lexington before the lulls of their schedules ensue. The Governor’s Cup game is the last nationally televised Louisville game until Oct. 10. Bridgewater and company must be decisive in his return to Commonwealth Stadium to remain fresh in the mind of Heisman and poll voters. Because after Saturday Louisville will be relegated to the ESPN Bottom Line for a few weeks.

Mark Stoops’ team will enter Saturday looking to make some noise on the national stage. Surely Kentucky’s prized recruits know that this team is mostly remnants of Joker Phillips awful regime. But there has to be a steady stream from the Cats’ football offense reminding their future hopefuls of this. The Wildcats now enter their toughest stretch of schedule: Louisville, Florida, at South Carolina, and Alabama. By the middle of October the Cats could be 1-6. Their highly touted 2014 class can’t arrive quickly enough.

Thankfully for UK, Teddy Bridgewater will likely end his history with Kentucky where his legend began. The local media has hammered down the narrative of Bridgewater’s first taste of success in Commonwealth and now his return. Deservedly so, Bridgewater has become a folk hero in Louisville a tale that begins in the center of Big Blue Nation. A massive game from him would be a tremendous chapter in his story.

Vegas has already made its decision, when the lines came out this Sunday Louisville was only a 7.5 point favorite. The line quickly jumped to a consensus of 14.5 points, but over 90% of the activity has gone in favor of the Cardinals. Giving the game the second highest action on match-up of the week, below Alabama and Texas A&M. However, there has been some backlash to the overwhelming support of the Cardinals. A few media types have come out against Vegas and taken the points. While finding someone who believes Kentucky can beat the spread, good luck finding a soul (UK fan or not) who will take the Cats to win the game.

This is likely a big reason that as of Friday evening you could still purchase tickets to the Governor’s Cup battle. After spending an entire summer touting an exceptional outpouring to Kentucky’s spring game, fans have been unable to sell out one of the biggest games of the year. However, UK athletics hasn’t made it any easier by bumping the lowest ticket prices to a face value of $81.

With Louisville entering the prestigious Atlantic Athletic Conference, it’s unlikely that any match-ups will become any easier anytime soon. However, the job that Mark Stoops has done with recruiting is undoubtedly spectacular. This year, he will be able to justify any result that takes place against the Cards, but there will need to be some growth in the near future.  Otherwise, he will suffer the same fate of Joker Phillips before him.

As the Cardinals and Cats face off for the last time during the last Saturday in football season, there only constant will be the continuance of the game. While its easy to imagine the possibilities, fans must remember that the game is only guaranteed to stick around until 2016. With the Cats remaining shy on the prospect of a permanent rivalry, we must enjoy the game while we still have it. Before the greediness of college football takes yet another great thing away.