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Kentucky Football Just One of Two SEC Programs Averaging 100% Capacity

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UK Athletics

Kentucky football has come a long way over the last decade.

In 2012, Joker Phillip’s last season, the Kentucky Wildcats finished just 2-10 and were winless in the SEC. This culminated in the epitome of brutality, where the Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt 40-0 with less than 30,000 fans recorded to be in attendance.

Yet the pictures from that dreadful day suggest that the true attendance was much worse than that.

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Now ten years later, with a program that has finished second in the SEC east twice and is currently on a seven-season bowl streak, the Kentucky Wildcats are one of just two schools in the SEC that are currently averaging 100% capacity.

Truthfully, Kentucky football has not had 61,000 fans in the stands for every game, but they have sold out every game this season. Which is a testament to the job that Mark Stoops and Co have done. In turn, the Big Blue Nation are showing support for the program more than ever.

Football

Chris Oats, Senior UK Linebacker That Suffered a Stroke, is Celebrated on Senior Day and Even Throws an L’s Down

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Chris Oats committed to the Kentucky Wildcats as a four-star linebacker in 2018. After two seasons, he had appeared in 25 games and recorded 73 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

Things were trending up for Oats as he was set to become a defensive leader and have a breakout season, but in May of 2020, he suffered a career-ending stroke. While the medical incident ultimately forced Oats off the field, his legacy has been carried with the team on and off the field.

On the field, one rotating Kentucky player wore his No. 22 jersey without a name on the back in honor of their teammate during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Off the field, Oats reminds the team what “true adversity really is” says head coach Mark Stoops.

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Since his medical incident, Oats has been progressing with rehab. With the help of Big Blue Nation, $170,000 was raised last summer to help Oats and his family purchase a wheelchair-accessible van to get to and from treatment.

That treatment has helped Oats regain some movement and independence. In March of this year, Oats was able to stand up with the assistance of his family for the first time since the incident.

In September, he was able to walk his sister down the aisle, citing it as motivation for what he has worked so hard for.

The most emotional moment came on Saturday as Oats participated in Kentucky’s senior day activities, standing up and even throwing an L’s down.

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After the game, Stoops talked about the emotions of having Oats on the field and what he has meant to the program. “You have a tendency to feel down or disgruntled or — that’s real adversity. He’s facing it head-on. I’m sure there are ups and downs. I know there is. But we all can learn a little bit from that.”

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Barion Brown Puts a Stop to Transfer Rumors, Says He Is “BBN for Life”

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UK Athletics

This season’s Kentucky team had plenty of experience but also had plenty of young talent, including some explosive offensive players. During his weekly call-in show last week, Mark Stoops talked about trying to keep this group of freshmen, calling it a “free-for-all” where schools just throw money at players.

One of those explosive freshmen is Barion Brown, and in recent weeks there was a rumor that he could be looking to transfer. Brown responded several times to fans on social media that was not considering leaving, but after Saturday’s game he wanted to end any and all doubt about his return.

When asked in the postgame press conference, Brown quickly dismissed the rumors and said that he doesn’t know where they came from, but that he will return and is “BBN for life.”

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This is positive news, as Brown has proved himself as one of the great young talents in the SEC. With the Bowl game still remaining, Brown already holds the Kentucky freshman record for receiving yards in a season (604) and most pass receptions in a season (45).

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Mark Stoops Calls NIL/Transfer Portal Era “100% Free Agency”

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UK Athletics

In 2021, college athletics was forever changed. In the span of just a few months, the NCAA implemented the “one-time transfer rule” and rules to allow student-athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL).

With both of these, it opened up the possibility for players to transfer to schools strictly based on potential marketing/brand deals, with Stoops calling it “100% free agency” on his weekly call-in show.

Now, a year and a half later, college sports have already seen several cases of this play out. This includes a billionaire alum of the University of Miami, John Ruiz, using his wealth and company, LifeWallet, to buy as much talent as he can afford.

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While it may not seem fair, it is the new reality and it is starting to take effect on the Kentucky football program. In his weekly call-in show on Monday, Mark Stoops opened up about it.

“With the name, image, and likeness, man, it is just a different world. It is absolutely insane what’s going on. Transfers. Your own team. You know how many people are going after our young players? We have as good of freshmen as I’ve ever had. And it’s like a free-for-all.”

The freshman Stoops is referring to?

Deone Walker, who has been a bright spot on the defensive line and is a semifinalist for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award. Two freshmen receivers, Dane Key and Barion Brown, now hold all of UK’s freshman receiving records. Not to mention, Alex Afari and Keaten Wade, who have made big plays in key moments this season.

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Recruiting that caliber of player is relatively new to Kentucky football, but now they have to find out how to retain them with schools “just throwing money” at them, as Stoops said.

“They’re just throwing money, you know what I mean? I don’t know, I don’t understand. It doesn’t seem healthy, I’m not sure it’s sustainable, but it’s legal, and once again I’m sorry. I hate to ask but we need the support. We need it desperately. It’s total free agency.”

In his Monday morning press conference, Stoops even suggested that he would donate back to the players if he was allowed. “I wish I could take some of that contract I just got and give it to my players and give it to the collectives… I promise you, I’d donate back to the players.”

At this point, the precedent has been set and it is up to the programs to adjust.

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