The idle interest in Kentucky football

There’s a couch outside the men’s bathroom in a hallway at the Wynfrey. Amid the frenetic pace of SEC media days, it’s usually empty.

But for about 15 minutes on Wednesday morning the couch was occupied by all three Kentucky football players brought to media days. They sat checking their phones, nothing to do, which is what happens when you’re Kentucky and draw the same session as Alabama.

“They have their time and we have our time. It’s not a big deal,” Kentucky tackle Jordan Swindle said. “It is what it is.”

They moved a short time later to the main media room, where senior safety was asked about trying to beat Vanderbilt.

“Six games is all we’ve gotta get. I don’t care which six they are,” Stamps said.

It’s a reasonable statement for a team with a bowl game as it’s goal. It’s also safe to say no Alabama player uttered that quote on Wednesday.

The other contrasts were numerous. When Nick Saban walked to the podium in the media room, he was followed by photographers clicking and cameramen filming. Kentucky’s Mark Stoops walked up alone.

In the lobby, a horde of Alabama fans waited for autographs. Nobody in blue was seen. There was a Bear Bryant impersonator, complete with a houndstooth hat. There was no impersonator for the most well-known coach in Kentucky football history … Well actually there was, because that would also be Bryant. (He went 60-23-6 at Kentucky from 1946-53.)

Here’s the thing about Kentucky’s football program: It only seems to lack interest in relation to the rest of the SEC: Last year Kentucky’s home attendance was second-worst in the SEC, but would have ranked third in the ACC or Big 12.

The perception is also contributed to by the rabid interest in basketball. Several Kentucky media members came to Hoover straight from covering the Peach Jam, a basketball recruiting event.

Swindle admitted he was asked a few times about Kentucky being a basketball school. But he didn’t sound annoyed by it.

“I feel like we’re a football school (too),” Swindle said. “I feel like we’re making strides and getting better and trying to change our culture around our school and our team, and make it a winning program.”

The Wildcats haven’t had a winning season since 2009, which was Rich Brooks’ final year as coach, and haven’t had a winning SEC record since 1977.

Yes, 1977. Kentucky is also one of only three SEC programs with an all-time record under .500. The others are Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

So all in all it’s actually a compliment to Kentucky fans that they support their team that much. But when it comes to SEC media days, the Wildcats were overshadowed by the hometown power.