By LARRY VAUGHT
Trish Varney, 40, was raised in Jackson County and currently lives in Pikeville with her 13-year-old daughter. She works as a community liaison for a community/public relations company. Like many other Kentucky football fans, she’s been distraught over what has happened to the football program this season. That’s why I asked her to share a few thoughts about this season to give the perspective of someone who wears blue and spends money for season tickets to back up that passion.
Question: How long have you been a Kentucky football fan and what made you start coming to games?
Varney: “Always a ‘casual’ UK football fan, I attended my first game in Commonwealth in 2006. I was hooked. I’d always loved football at every level of the game. But there was something different about the college football atmosphere. From that point, I rarely missed a home game.”
Question: Why have you not been going to games at Commonwealth Stadium this year?
Varney: “As a single mother living 140 miles from Commonwealth Stadium, I simply refused to make the trip each week, in a recession, to watch a bad product being put on the field. In addition to the travel expense, I simply felt like I was punishing myself by attending. The end result, week after week, became depressing.”
“In addition, I was very displeased with Mitch Barnhart’s comments towards the fan base. UK football has a very loyal fan base when you consider the product that has historically been put on the field. I felt some of his comments reflected an arrogance that screamed ‘You do not matter’ to the fans. Many of these fans have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars for decades to support what has, at best, been a mediocre product.”
Question: How disappointed are you in what has happened to the football program this year?
Varney: “It has completed altered the way I have spent my fall weekends. The enjoyment that I always felt walking in that stadium has disappeared. My disappointment reached a new level on Saturday when Vandy…VANDY, had so little respect for this team that they went for it on 4th and FIVE in an early game situation. Vandy, a perennial bottom feeder of the SEC, was, in all essence, mocking us. At that moment, I knew that we had reached rock bottom.
“I wanted Joker Phillips to succeed as much as anyone. Nothing would have pleased me more than for him to have had success as the head football coach at UK. But it was not to be. The change had to be made.”
Question: What will it take in a new coach for you to start coming back to games?
Varney: “Optimally, I would LIKE to see a coach instill some inspiration to an offense that has been sorely lacking since Andre Woodson’s departure. However, I think that the crucial factor in the new hire will be defensive strength. There is no way to truly compete in the SEC without an aggressive defense. All in all, I want to see a staff that instills discipline, demands respect and is able to make our players believe they can be more than they ever dreamed possible. I want to walk out of a game and think, win or lose, that my team left it all out on the field.”
Question: Do you ever remember a time where fans just gave up on UK football like they have now and will the coaching change make fans feel differently?
Varney: “I can’t recall a time that fans have ‘given up’ on UK football. Our fan base is historically loyal.
“I do believe, however, that our AD’s smugness has contributed to the mass exodus in Commonwealth as much as anything. Fans felt the only option was to send a message in the only way they felt our athletic department would listen: DOLLARS. The fans had to abandon their team to send a message to the administration.”
Question: Will you now come to the game Nov. 17 against Samford?
Varney: “I will be in the stands on Nov.r 17th. I will be there to let the players know that we, the fans, support them and always have supported them. I also hope to be a part of a classy sendoff for our embattled coach. Even though it didn’t work out as planned, he is and will always be one of us.”