Shortly before Bobby Petrino took the podium in Greensboro on Monday afternoon, University of Kentucky spokesman Tony Neely confirmed reports that head football coach Mark Stoops would not be attending Wednesday’s annual Governor’s Cup Luncheon.
Most assumed that this was the first big hint from the Kentucky program that they’re no longer interested in playing Louisville on an annual basis. UK claimed Stoops’ absence was purely based on the fact that he didn’t see “any value” in attending a press conference about a game that won’t happen until the very end of the season.
I suppose that makes sense, but if we’re being honest here, this annual press conference isn’t solely about the game between Louisville and Kentucky. In recent years, this has mostly been used a a platform for both programs to talk about the upcoming season and not just the Governor’s Cup Game.
The future of the series has been a topic of conversation this week for both Louisville and Kentucky fans after Stoops and athletic director Mitch Barnhart pulled a no show at the luncheon. However, Stoops spoke to the media on Friday afternoon and stated that he wants to preserve the in-state rivalry.
“Any time you’re an in-state rivalry it’s important. I think both groups, both institutions, have such strong fans and fan bases that it’s important to them and it’s important to our players. There’s no denying that,” Stoops said that the Greater Louisville UK Alumni Club.
“If you ask me, and certainly Charlie Strong and I have had discussions, I don’t know Coach Bobby Petrino as well, but sometimes people don’t realize there’s 11 other games that we’ve gotta get to. But it is important, and we embrace that challenge.”
For those who worried that the rivalry would eventually go away, Stoops’ comments are certainly encouraging. That said, there really isn’t a way for Kentucky to get out of playing Louisville without looking like cowards. With the SEC’s recent requirement that each team schedules one out of conference game against a “Power Five” opponent, Kentucky is basically stuck with Louisville.
Of course, they could always end the annual rivalry and start a series with Indiana or another weak team from a Power Five league, but as I mentioned, there is no way to do that without looking like you’re flat out scared to play Louisville.