By LARRY VAUGHT
Western Kentucky athletics director Todd Stewart said the tweet from the Western Kentucky basketball Twitter account offering to play Kentucky again after the Cats scheduled games with Conference-USA foes Marshall and UAB was not meant as a “bring-it-on challenge” to the Wildcats even if did seem that way to UK fans.
“This is not meant to come across as a challenge, any kind of a bring-it-on challenge whatsoever, but we would play Kentucky any year they want to play in Rupp Arena. If we aren’t playing in basketball, it’s not because we don’t want to,” Stewart said during a Zoom call with media members last week. “We would play them under probably, virtually any scenario that they would come up with.”
Remember Western did offer to donate any guaranteed money from playing in Rupp Arena next season to charity … and apparently the two schools did talk about playing and says talks are still ongoing for future seasons.
Now Kentucky fans should like this. During the Zoom call Stewart said “UK is the best basketball program in the nation and he understand scheduling issues for a team like Kentucky.
The Bowling Green Daily News also said Stewart praised UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart for agreeing to a four-game football deal where the schools played each yer from 2010-13.
“There was really no reason for him to do that or Kentucky to do that, but he did and in doing so, obviously it was great for us, but I think it was great for fans in the state of Kentucky as well,” Stewart said. “I think if you talk to UK fans, they would probably rather them play (as opposed to out-of-state teams in non-SEC games).”
Stewart — and coach Rick Stansbury — would love for a series where UK comes to Bowling Green to play, something Kentucky has never done.
“I think we need to be honest with each other – I think that’s probably not likely to occur. Again, I understand that. They have very unusual dynamics and obligations with their scheduling,” Stewart said.
He’s right. No way would I ever see John Calipari agreeing to play a game at Western, Murray, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead or Northern Kentucky. Just won’t happen.
But I am one who would like to see UK play Western and not UAB or Marshall. Sure it would help the Hilltoppers, but if Kentucky is going to be a national title contender, playing Western Kentucky at Rupp Arena should not be an insurmountable obstacle occasionally.
“The stature of their program – you want to be measured against the very best, and that’s a big reason why we would play them, but also if you look at it historically, these are two of the best basketball programs of all time,” Stewart said.
“I just think that’s unfortunate for basketball fans in the state of Kentucky. When you have two top programs like that basically two and a half hours apart, it just seems like they ought to play more than three times in the regular season. Hopefully that’s something that we can get done in the near future.”