(Photo Courtesy: Mark Stoops' Twitter)
As recently as six months ago, had you asked most Kentucky fans how they planned to spend Saturday April 13, 2013, most would’ve likely responded by saying that if anything, they’d spend the early evening watching the Jordan Brand All-American high school basketball game. That is of course, if they had an opinion on such an absurd question in the first place.
And really, at the time, who could’ve blamed them? The game, which was played Saturday night, featured six future Wildcats’ hoops signees, as well as the nation’s No. 1 player Andrew Wiggins, who could very end up at Kentucky next fall as well.
Only times are a changing in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and as an appetizer to the hoops on Saturday, was a subject that isn’t often talked about in Lexington this time of year: Football. Specifically, Kentucky Wildcats football.
Only that was then, and this is now.
Because in an upset that is bigger than any we’ll see on a football Saturday this fall, Big Blue Nation showed up in full-force to support new head coach Mark Stoops in the first spring game of his tenure, to the tune of…are you ready for this?… 51,000 strong.
Yes, you ready that correctly. Kentucky had 51,000 people. At a spring football game. To watch a team which finished 2-10 last season, winless in the SEC, and with a loss to that football factory known as Western Kentucky.
All I can say is: Stoops there it is!!!
Only if you’ve been paying attention closely, and seen the growing love affair between Stoops and Wildcat nation, well, the support isn’t totally surprising. Even if the number 51,000 is.
Crystal Ball Run first wrote about this phenomenon when Stoops was hired (we were the first to REALLY praise the hire, as best I can tell), and really since that day, well, the man hasn’t done anything to change the perception. In terms of riling up a fan-base and getting folks excited about his football program, Stoops has had the Midas touch the last six months.
It started with the coaching staff he hired, and the idea of bringing Kentucky grad and Air-Raid guru Neil Brown to run what was formerly an inept and uninteresting offense. It continued in recruiting, where the Wildcats had a Signing Day to remember, stealing the top recruit in the state (defensive end Jason Hatcher) from USC, and another named Marcus McWilson, a defensive back from Stoops’ hometown of Youngstown, Ohio who most expected to stay in Big Ten country.
And it continued on Saturday when- and I cannot emphasize this enough- 51,000 people showed up to support the Wildcats football program.
It’s a sign of the times, and a sign that maybe the Wildcats don’t have to be a college football laughingstock, and instead a program on the way up.
At the very least, it’s a sign that Stoops has brought hope to the Kentucky football program.
And with the way things are going, you’d have to assume that some wins might be on the way down the road as well.
For all his insight, analysis and opinion, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.