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Kentucky players worry that fans have given up on the football team


His first two seasons at Kentucky, linebacker Avery Williamson was used to seeing capacity crowds — or near capacity — at Commonwealth Stadium when the Wildcats played.  This year, that has changed dramatically thanks in part to UK’s 1-6 record going into Saturday night’s game against Georgia.

“You can tell, you can sense it if they (the stands) are really full or not,” said Williamson, who ranks third in the Southeastern Conference in tackles per game (9.7). “That is just part of it. You have to take it.”

After last week’s 49-7 loss at Arkansas when UK trailed 42-0 at halftime, the Wildcats could have an even smaller crowd at the Georgia game. Williamson insists while he notices the crowd size, it does not impact his play.

“If it is not full, it is not. I am not going to change my game because fans are not there,” Williams said. “I would play if my mom and dad were just out there in the stands. I am going to play the same tempo. Hopefully the fans will come out and support us. If not, I am still going to be out there flying around and going 100  miles per hour.”

Senior center Matt Smith says the Cats have to put the 49-7 loss behind them but also remember the feeling so it does not happen again in the remaining five games.

“It was one of the more embarrassing games that I have been part of,” Smith said Monday. “We looked at the film yesterday and saw what we could do better and just take that and go from there and put it behind us and focus on rest of season because we still have a lot of good teams left to play.”

The players understand why fans are upset and do sense many have given up on the team.

“I know that it is not going to be the same when you are losing,” Williamson said. “I feel like some of the fans have kind of shifted away from us. Hopefully we can gain it back with a win this week.”

“There is always the fans that are going to feel resentful toward us and feel we should have done more and be mad at the coaching staff and players. It’s all understandable,” Smith said. “We have fans and a lot of people that are getting hold of me through Twitter and I am getting a lot of text messages and stuff and there are fans still behind us, and that’s encouraging.

“To see the fans who traveled to Arkansas and know that we are still going to have fans in the stadium on Saturday is encouraging. We know there are fans who will always be behind us no matter what. It is tough when you have won only one game to keep all the fans you had at the beginning of the season, obviously. We know that the Kentucky fan base has always been a good fan base for every sport that we have. We are just happy that we have those fans still.”

What if more fans than expected showed up Saturday”

“It would mean a lot. We need as much support as possible. It would mean a whole lot for the fans to show up,” Williamson said.

Both Williamson and Smith says the players have no reason not to finish the season playing as hard as they can despite the record or speculation about coach Joker Phillips’ future.

“We  just say we have to finish the season out as strong as possible. We can’t just give up and put our heads down and pout about it. We have to go out and have a good practice every day,” Williamson said.

“Some of the younger players sometimes might get down. You just kind of have to bounce them back. You have got to be a leader. Juniors, sophomores and seniors have to tell those guys we have to keep fighting. They are young and it is a long, physical season. It is tough on older guys as well. We have to keep them positive.”

Smith says strength coach Ray “Rock” Oliver told the team to push the “reset button” after last week’s loss.

“Get it out of our minds and start fresh and move forward in a new direction and just come together as much as a team as we can,” Smith said. “I know what we can do, but it is a matter of putting it all together on Saturdays.

“One of the things about the team this year that I love is that a lot of these guys don’t give up. I know it is not a part of me to give up and it is not a part of a lot of these guys that are seniors and have been around. That is the last thing on their mind to give up like this. I think that attitude has rubbed off on guys. During practice we are practicing just as hard as we have been. As long as we can keep that going and keep the guys’ spirits up, and I know it is tough to do that right now, but the older guys are taking the leadership and younger guys are following and we are not going to give up.”

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  1. MakeMineKentuckyBlue

    I hope (if nothing else) the coachs will be able to get the kids to understand that they will “never understand” a FAN. Most of us approach this as we would with our own children….we want them to do their best, work hard and reach for success!!! That is all we can ask!!!

    As Coach Cal always, jokingly, says, “You people are crazy!!” But he hasn’t seen “crazy” until they start losing.

    So, I will ALWAYS support our team…..but something needs to be done with the “system.”

    1. larryvaught

      Well said KentuckyBlue

  2. TrueBlueJohn

    I think that most of the true fans are not frustrated with the players, we understand that they are giving it their best shot. The frustration lies with the coaches and administration who makes all the decisions that affect the program. We have been a loyal fanbase who have year after year filled Commonwealth Stadium for a losing team. I like Joker, I think he is a class act and I have been pulling hard for him to succeed. But it is obvious that he is lacking something that is needed for this team to improve. It is time for a change.

    1. RJ

      Here, here!

      1. larryvaught

        So many good responses on both sides here. I’ll admit, as a father of a former college player, I feel for players. No fun when they feel like they are in a no-win situation and that is kind of where the Cats are right now

  3. Juan4UK

    These kids don’t understand that. Anyone with kids should know that. I wish the fanbase would find a way to take that into consideration when they spew such vitriol. That’s the worst thing about social media especially.

  4. Kentucky Packrat

    I feel very bad for the kids, because they’re the real losers in this adventure. Joker has a golden parachute, and will be paid for failing. Mitch Barnhart has a contract for life that’s even better than Joker’s. It’s the players who are burning through eligibility and career-threatening injuries for UK’s sake.

    In the end, I (as a UK fan) am the target audience for the university. It’s my money that buys tickets for the stadium (and concessions), and it’s my money that buys merchandise. I’m the eyeballs that UK and its media partners sell to their advertisers. I can complain publicly, but the University has (IMHO, rightly) closed ranks and appears to be ignoring public opinion.

    We fans can only effectively show our displeasure through dropping out of said audience. Each empty seat is a ticket and food not bought. It’s one of the few ways we can publicly and effectively express our displeasure at the current state of affairs.

    If fans were serious about “rebelling”, the way to do it is through an advertising boycott, not through criticizing players. Don’t buy the shirts, and tell the retailers why. Tell Paul Miller you won’t buy their cars until Joker is gone. Tell Kroger that you’re shopping at Meijers and WalMart. Close your checking account at Central Bank or Whittaker Bank. No tires at S&S.

    Tell every advertiser that they are not getting your money while Joker is at UK and they are advertising on the games. Get enough people to join you to make it a movement. THAT would make a difference. Not being hateful online.

    1. larryvaught

      Kentucky Packrat, love your thinking

  5. john

    If it was announced today that this would be Jokers last year the stadium would be mostly full Saturday.

  6. donv

    I saw a lot of “quit” saturday from the players and the coaching staff.


    I have hit on this over and over again. Poor attendance at the stadium I believe has little to do with whether Joker stays or goes. I know the #’s, I see them posted here all the time and I get the business end of it. Joker’s record will determine his fate, and even more importantly how he goes about obtaining that record (blow out after blow out, loss to WKU).
    The stands are empty even when the tickets are bought. So that $ statement the fans are trying to make isn’t being heard. Concessions sales I imagine are down, but guess what some of this goes to local organizations like high school bands etc. So now who are you hitting in the pocket book?
    Football apparel is likely down but basketball apparel is up. Doubt this is separated in the revenue column.
    The only things fans have accomplished by not showing up is to verify their self-absorbed attitude of instant gratification. They want a “product”. Shame on you if you wear Kentucky on your chest. Shame on you if you ever boo other than at an official. Shame on you if you hightail it out of the stands early to beat the minimal traffic the games generate anyhow. These are the same fans that wonder why we can’t get a coach or recruits or why we don’t have traditions. What recruit do you think will choose us when they show up for a visit to empty stands and booing? What coach do you think wants to walk into a situation where it is obvious his city and fanbase do not support the job he is about to take? What traditions do expect us to build when everyone shows up a quarter late and leaves two quarters early?
    Shame on you all for not showing up. Do you think they don’t show in Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tenn when they are losing? No because they have real fans, real fans of the game, real fans of the effort on the field.
    The fans should be nearly full every game now. Maybe our boys would feed off of some enthusiasm from the fans. You can hate Joker and Barnhart all you like. You can protest through not visiting large advertising businesses and you can write the board and it’s members a letter everyday, but shame on you for not supporting your Wildcats!
    It is so hypocritical to take a stance against the administration for not supporting the program while I hear person after person (I refuse to call you fans) of cashing in their season tickets, or not buying tickets or not showing up and not supporting the program. So who is worse you or the “administration”. It is easy for you to go to a game and flood money into the program while it may not be so easy to get legislature etc. Guess what. Joker has sealed his fate with losses, big losses and a steady and rapid decline in the program. Now you say throw money at it. How about all that money not spent on tickets? That would have made a nice raise to get a good coach in here but you all went and pi@#$d that out the window.
    My money spent on my season ticket is a vote of support for a fellow Wildcat first and second a hope of seeing a good team on the field. If anything I get to go to a game and see several top ten teams play in person. Even if they are beating us that is better than any night in front of the tv for me.

    You should be ashamed!

    1. Ira

      Am I ashamed for not renewing my seats and my Kfund not only no but heck no! Where do you get off at calling me shameless??? I tell you one thing sir or maybe two.

      This fanbase has been patient for 60 plus years with the ineptitude on how this program has been ran. It has reached a boiling point with many fans including myself. I speak with my pocketbook.

      I have just like the 27% who didn’t renew this past season have better things to do with my hard earned money that I can spend it on than what Mitch Barnhart doesn’t spend on football. Where are the upgrades that Brooks was promised. Still waiting isn’t he.

      I am not following a bungling idiot on the field. Its a travesty of a coach we have. Florida, LSU, Bama, would not stand for it, yet because we are Kentucky we will stand for it for most likely one more year. Basketball is king in this state.

      We have a recruiting budget football that is equal to basketball. Why I ask you? Basketall recruits half the players of football. We face juggernaugts every year in football, teams that do not even have to go out of their states to recruits, players from out of state that beg to go to their schools and yet we have a pissy ass recruiting budget which is shameful.

      Big Blue Madness laser light show was equal to the football recruiting budget. 300K. All spent in one night. Believe it or not I don’t mind that expenditure, but funny when it comes to basketball the money is there. But when it comes to football, its aw shucks gee whiz we don’t seem to have it or we don’t need it. We don’t need to keep up with the Joneses of the world we just need to be in the ball park. Barnhart’s words not mine! What a double standard. Only the best for basketball is what Barnhart said, Gold standard for Basketball, and the tin cup for football.

      And you have the nerve to call us football fans shameless. That was shameless. Where were the journalist calling him out on that. No one if I recall. All afraid to lose their press pass for basketball. Meh to you!

      1. KYWCAT

        Don’t for a second think you are following anyone onto the field. Our young men in Blue have that task squarely on their shoulders. But do recognize the ineptitude you are seeing in our coach many are showing in our fanbase.
        You may think you speak with your pocketbook but your message of nonsupport to our young men and possible recruits is much louder than your dollars will ever stretch.
        Basketball gets the money that it deserves for the results it gets. I agree the coach needs to go but I don’t believe other than salaries and minimal upgrades to practice facilities that all this money needs to be thrown at the football program. You are talking to a person who earned a scholarship through the football program and I bleed just as Blue as any of those who claim to do so. I support UK. Not my agenda.

        1. BD WELLS

          You are way outta line. The fans have backed this program through thick and thin for 60+ years. Enough is enough. Joker, for all he has given UK, was a mistake. Thats what the fans are boycotting, not the kids. And hitting ole Barnfart in his pocketrbook is the quickest way to effect change. Continue the Joke another year and there will be even less fans in the stands. Turn the page and make a big time hire, and the 70,000 WILL BE BACK!

          1. KYWCAT

            Jokers record dictates his staying or going.

            Over 2.5 million to buy out his contract plus what we have lost in revenue plus what we would have to bump the next coach and his assistants pay to? I don’t know. An additional 4-8 million dollars. That is what Barnhart has to face. So keep not showing up for games, leaving the players high and dry and making Barnharts decision easier day by day. At this point it may cost him less to keep Joker even if ticket sales fall next year. Or we as fan can keep ponying up for a new coach.

            Seems like thinnest must not be included in the fan’s vow of thick and thin!

            I guess my point is I’ve never got better things to do than support a fellow Wildcat on the field. And believe me I have plenty of good things to do. But I guess they must just not be as good as the things all the other fans are missing these games for. Outta line is your empty seat at the game.

        2. Ira

          Oh that 27% spoke volumes this year. It will speak even more when another 15-20% doesn’t renew next year if the Joke comes back. The only method this AD understands is money. It isn’t about supporting or not supporting the athletes at this University. That is a problem dealing with the young men on the team today. By not going to the game they do not understand, fans are trying to speak in a different direction.

          If you want to spend your money, and support this nightmare of an administration that doesn’t care if UK football ever competes in the SEC that is up to you. But others like myself have said enough. Until they Barnhart and the now BOT are willing to back it 100% that we the fans were willing to do for 60 years no we are not putting our hard earned money, our hard earned time. We have a better use for it. If that is a hard concept for you to understand, then that is sad for you.

          This AD needs to put in the time and effort, the same the fans have backed UK football for decades. Show me that support and the fans would come back in droves. If the AD wants lackluster support by all means he will get it completely. I aim to give him the same level of support he is currently giving UK football. Little to none.

          1. KYWCAT

            Ira you are in a dark place.

            Being a Wildcat is no longer your priority. What you get for your money is. I’m sorry for that.

            Even if the stadium is full this doesn’t equate to support for Barnhart or Joker. No one seems to be capable of understanding this. Football games are not a picket line, not a protest in front of the courthouse. They are opportunities to support no one but the athletes on the field. It is horrible they are under-talented, under-coached, getting injured all while you people sit at home and worry about your pocketbook and time.

            I’m fine if you just admit to no longer being loyal to the Blue and White. Never mind you just did.

            And yes 27% did speak volumes. It means we now can’t afford to fire a coach based on his record and may need to keep him regardless of it because the fans have sucked so much revenue out of the program. I’m warning you now. Do not be suprised when you find out the results of your course of action. And then I’ll be the one super peaved because I know we need a new coach but had no viable financial choice but to keep him because so many people (refuse to call them fans) left the program high and dry. All not showing up does is put us way behind the 8 ball when it comes to money for hiring, looking good to recruits and promoting football as something fans care about. Guess what, unless you told him personally, to his face. Barnhart thinks not showing means you don’t care. Tell me Ira, did you buy season tickets? If you did then everything you are ranting about you contradicted before the season even started.

  8. shinny

    I will be traveling some 12 hours to watch my beloved cats play football. I’ll be watching the talent we have along with their effort. No doubt they know the game of football and know when to punt,when to kickoff,when tokick extra points so I’m going to enjoy watching them play knowing there will be no coaching in the game. I will cheer for their effort and watch THEM as they play for Kentucky pride. I will not buy any concessions, however my tickets are season tickets bought on a promise(never again), don’t need to can get good seats anytime. Since there will be no coaching on our side the press can interview us(fans) and the players after the game. We promise to tell it like it is without of course any excuses. Let’s get that big bad “BULLDOG” now guys we are with “YOU”

  9. Anonymous

    I will be in my seat Saturday evening rooting for the Big Blue. I will not apoligize for wanting a winning team, do not for a minute think that these players do not care about winning, they want to win more than I do….they put in the work every day. We love our players. Winning solves a lot of problems, it shows rewards for the players many,many hard hours of work in the summer, the weight room and on the field. Winning facilitates more people in the stands to support all the athletic programs. Our whole athletic program is dependent on the finances from football. When you don’t win it creates a lot of diversity in the locker room with every player who thinks he should be playing. The majority of fans want to see a competitive product on the field. The current leadership is simply failing to produce that. How many fans would be there for a team that went 0 and 12 every year. Our players want to win…they say we like the “family atmosphere”, I will just say they will take Nick Sabin’s abuse with winning rather than the alternative. It is time for a change in leadership.

  10. johnl

    Fans don’t determine the product on the field,the coaches and players do.All Kentucky fans want is a team that is competitive,and entertaining,and so far with this team we have neither.

    Players talk about playing hard,and giving it their all,if what we’ve seen so far is little if any of this.If these UK players are playing at their highestg level or giving it their all,then they need to transfer to a less demanding level of football,because they are not at the level of competition they need to be in.

    UK has gone 20 games without sdoring a touchdown in the first quarter,and game after game have started games giveing the impression that they had rather be somewhere else than on the football field.Game preparation appears to be nonexistent as is leadership from the sidelines.

    Fans aren’t the participants on the field.They are simply the support group,the cheerleaders who are trying to pump some energy into a team that seems to care less.

    1. KYWCAT

      Well said Johnl. I do see now though that our players lack the talent they need to compete at the level required here. That takes us right back around to coaching and recruiting.

  11. RJ

    I remember reading the accounts of Bear Bryant before he came to KY. He refused to recruit players who could not play at the level required. And, he demanded that the players he did end up with play at a higher level. A lot of players hated Bryant but ended up thanking him for what he put them through. When you accept a scholarship to a SEC school, it’s not just a free ride. You have to perform at a level that you could not conceive of in high school. We’re not getting that at UK. And that is coaching.

  12. Tana

    To Avery and Matt and ALL of the Wildcats:

    I love you.

    I appreciate your blood, sweat, and tears.

    I’m behind you.

    I’ll be there, God-willing, screaming my head off in support.

    I’ll continue to pull for you with all my heart.

    I’m merely a fan.

    PLEASE think about these kids, fellow Kentucky football fans.


  13. Tana

    Oh, sorry, I forgot one more message for our players, just in case any player happens to read here: I have NOT given up on you guys!!!

    1. Love SEC

      Good Comments Tana – I too will always support the players giving their best effort.

      1. KYWCAT

        That’s what I’m talking about Tana and Love SEC, we need more of great fans like you guys and myself. GO BIG BLUE! Proud to wear Kentucky on my chest!

    2. UKFMLY

      Count me in on the support group. I have avoided commenting a lot on FB because of the negative edge most articles and comments contain. But I can always count on Tana! ! ! THANKS


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