Season ticket sales updates

A surge in construction activity at Commonwealth Stadium hasn’t equaled a notable surge in season ticket sales.

Kentucky officials told the Herald-Leader that roughly 38,600 season tickets have been sold as of Thursday, which is just slightly ahead of the pace from this time last season when the school reported it had sold 38,024 tickets.

In the summer of 2013, UK said 37,901 season tickets sold. In 2012, the final season for Joker Phillips, Kentucky officials said they had sold 38,655 by the opener.

Overall ticket sales figures haven’t moved dramatically since February when officials noted that 37,109 tickets had been selected and reserved for the newly renovated stadium, which will have its grand opening on Sept. 5 when the Wildcats face Louisiana-Lafayette.

That contest is the start of an eight-game season at Commonwealth Stadium that features marquee games against Florida (Sept. 19), Tennessee (Oct. 31) and Louisville (Nov. 28) as well as the stadium’s first-ever Thursday night game on Oct. 15 versus Auburn.

Generally, there is a late surge of season ticket purchases, including students once they return to campus in early August, officials have said in the past.

Students already have had the opportunity to purchase season tickets for the upcoming season and 2,500 have taken advantage (which is included in the official number), UK official Tony Neely confirmed. He did not have an exact figure for how many student seats would be available this season.

Previously, UK has said that the student section would hold somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 seats and be located in the East end zone surrounding the Cats’ new recruiting room.

There has been no final word on how many fans the newly renovated and re-ticketed Commonwealth Stadium will hold, but it’s expected to have a capacity around 61,000.

Kentucky averaged 57,572 fans in its seven home games last season, with a reported season high of 64,791 against then-No. 1 Mississippi State on Oct. 25.

That number was down slightly from the first season under head coach Mark Stoops when UK averaged 59,472 per game, but construction decreased the number of seats available last season.

Fans can purchase season tickets still by going to UKFootballTix.com or by calling the ticket office at (800) 928-2287.

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Stoops after Governor’s Cup luncheon

MARK STOOPS
On if he goes over to Commonwealth Stadium regularly to check on progress: “Really, I have not have time. That’s such a big project, totally out of my control. I really don’t have the time or the energy to worry about that. Russ Pear is the man in charge there. He’s got his hands full.”
On reading between lines on his Patrick Towles comments: “I think you’re trying to trick me. I’m saying Patrick has done some very good things. He has the experience; he did some very good things in the spring. We’re constantly evaluating that. We went back and watched a lot of tape, a lot of cut ups, and trying to be very critical. Yeah, I said Patrick probably has the leg up. He did some good things in the spring, but Drew is young and playing better and better every time he steps on the field. He’s still going to have an opportunity throughout the summer and throughout camp to win that job, but Patrick’s probably got a leg up at this point.”
On if that’s a nice carrot to dangle for both: “I think two reasons it’s good to see the growth of Drew because I thought Patrick did some real good things. I think it’s good to show competition. I think competition helps us at every position. You hear me talk about that often: Every position you need great competition it helps step up everybody’s game and elevate everybody’s game. I feel like we’re getting more and more competition at a lot of spots and it’s good to have two guys playing quality football at quarterback.”
On Josh Forrest and Ryan Flannigan: “They really have. Josh really had a good spring. We need him to continue to grow and be a leader and just play and compete at a high level. I see a change in him, same as Ryan. Ryan really shows up quite a bit and showed up quite a bit as you analyze and watch al the spring cut ups. He really did some good things and is playing much faster, is stronger, putting on some weight. So he has a little more fitness to him and a little more stout in the run game, and the same with Josh. You heard me talk about it a year ago that he needed to be more physical at times. He certainly runs great and has great pass defensive skills, needs to get better in the run game. But both of them have improved. So I’m excited about both of those two.”
On any other attrition beyond Rashad Cunningham: “Not at this point. There could still be some attrition that you generally see when you’re dealing with as many guys as we are. So that could happen. We’ll see. Nothing at this point.”
On what he liked most about Towles this spring: “I just thought he was more comfortable. He improved in areas we wanted him to improve on. One of them was accuracy. I feel like he throws the ball down the field very well, some intermediate throws, he needed to be more accurate, put the ball in spots to give our receivers and some running backs a chance to make some yards. And I felt like he improved in that area. Decision making, being more comfortable, several things.”
On if there are any other players who may be injured still come fall camp: “Just talked with Jim Madaleno about that yesterday. I don’t anticipate anybody missing the year with the exception — and I don’t expect him to miss the year — is Kobie Walker’s going to take some time to come back from that injury as well.”
On Mikel Horton: “He has. He had a great spring with the way he’s changing his body, a little bit lighter. He ran more physical, which we challenged him to be. He’s still a big guy, even losing a little bit of weight, he’s still a big guy as you know. We needed him to run a little bit more physical and he’s done those things. I think he’s going to have a big year, both him and Boom. They both need to grow, continue to get some experience and to grow mentally and be the type of guys that can carry the weight for our team and win some football games, so we’re constantly challenging them to be consistent in their work ethic.”
On changing the mindset, seeing that working in players’ approach: “They do (understand). They definitely do. We’re more consistent in our approach. I feel like our guys clearly understand what’s expected of them. Are we as disciplined as we need to be all the time? Probably not. And that’s the next phase, as I mentioned in there (at the luncheon): I feel like they have the experience now at certain positions. We have a good blend of even some younger guys that have some experience but some great talent. And some older guys that played some football, been in our system now going into their third year, and that’s certainly going to help. So I’m pleased with them. It’s never going to be perfect, but we need to be more consistent and more disciplined in all the things we’re doing.”
On guys who stood out upon further review of spring: “I think Garrett (Johnson, wide receiver). You’ve heard me talk about Garrett really did some good things. Again, both quarterbacks I thought, if you really watch them, really shined at times and did some good things. The running backs – Boom had some exceptional runs. I think across the board, we’re getting more and more depth at offensive line. So those are a few spots. Receiver, we’re getting more depth. I think as we get completely healthy, get some of those guys back – we’ll get Dorian Baker back, get (Ryan) Timmons back in the fall – I’ll be excited about the depth of our wideouts, and you know we need them with as much running as they do and as many games as we play.
“We need a bunch of depth at wide receiver, and if we get to full strength at wide receiver, I’ll be pleased with that for the first time. Really, as you know, we were really depleted the first year. The second year, we were playing some young guys; I think we got better and you saw some playmaking ability out there. And I think as we move forward into this third year, hopefully we’ll continue to progress in that area. I anticipate we will.”
On UK’s situation at running back: “I think we need to continue to get some depth because of how physical it is. Last year, we really remained relatively healthy at that position, which is rare through the season. So if we stay the same way this year and stay healthy, I think we’ll be OK, but I think you’re constantly at that position a little bit concerned because you can get banged up in a hurry.”
On if Boom can be an every-down back: “Oh, absolutely. He’s getting more and more physical and being able to withstand that type of punishment. You know Mikel has done a great job as well. So we feel like we have a nice blend of those two, and Jojo (Kemp) really improved. We challenged Jojo to get back to his old self, and he feels like has. He was more explosive, more consistent in the spring, and he always brings that tough attitude. He had some tough yards for us a year ago, so I’m excited about Jojo and getting him back in the fold.”
On liking Kemp saying ‘I want my spot back’: “Yeah, absolutely, because he says it in a good way. He’s been very good. He’s handled things the right way. He saw some areas that he needed to improve and be more consistent in and he’s willing to put the work in, so I’m excited about Jojo.”
On the schedule this fall: “I feel good about the schedule. I really do. What is it? Five and then we have the bye on the Thursday, and then we have another Thursday, so it’s kind of another extra day or two, and then we have a tough stretch at the end again. That’s where we need to improve and be more consistent and be deeper and try to stay somewhat healthy to be able to finish this season strong. So I think overall, I’m pleased with the schedule. It is what it is, so we’re ready to go play.”

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Tidbits from Stoops at Governor’s Cup

While discussing the quarterback race between Patrick Towles and Drew Barker this offseason, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops updated the Achilles’ tendon injury for sophomore Reese Phillips. “That’s a significant injury as you know. He’s limping and slow to move right now, but we expect him to be ready probably mid-August.”

  • As for other injuries that may keep Cats out of fall camp, Stoops said he didn’t think any with the possible exception of linebacker red-shirt freshman Kobie Walker, who missed the end of spring with an ankle sprain that required surgery. “I don’t anticipate anybody missing the year with the exception — and I don’t expect him to miss the year — is Kobie Walker’s going to take some time to come back from that injury as well.”
  • Wide receiver Rashad Cunningham is forgoing his senior season, but Stoops said he doesn’t expect there to be similar departures. “Not at this point,” Stoops said. “There could still be some attrition that you generally see when you’re dealing with as many guys as we are. So that could happen. We’ll see. Nothing at this point.”
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Mark Stoops on 2015 schedule

A lot was made about Kentucky’s late-season slide. Schedule, lack of depth and injuries were key factors. Mark Stoops said he feels good about the 2015 schedule.

“I really do. What is it? Five and then we have the bye on the Thursday, and then we have another Thursday, so it’s kind of another extra day or two, and then we have a tough stretch at the end again. That’s where we need to improve and be more consistent and be deeper and try to stay somewhat healthy to be able to finish this season strong. So I think overall, I’m pleased with the schedule. It is what it is, so we’re ready to go play.”

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A look at known 2016 guarantee game deals

Here is a breakdown of the known guarantee games for Kentucky for the 2016 season:

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles are a team that UK fans will get to know well with a home-and-home series scheduled via the new contract signed in April. UK will pay Southern Miss $200,000 for the Sept. 3, 2016 game at Commonwealth Stadium and then travel to Hattiesburg on Sept. 2, 2017 to play Southern Miss there. The Cats will be the first SEC foe outside of the state of Mississippi to play the Golden Eagles at their home. UK will not pay anything for that game. This contract replaces an initial $800,000 one-game deal with Alabama Birmingham.

Austin Peay: The game, originally schedule to be played on Sept. 10, 2016 was moved to Nov. 19 in an amendment signed a few months ago. The change took the one-game buyout from $325,000 to $375,000. Per the original contract, the Governors were given 800 complimentary tickets as well as 2,000 tickets to sell to home fans. Austin Peay can return no more than 500 tickets two weeks before the game.

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A look at Cats’ 2015 guarantee games

Here is the breakdown of the three guarantee games for Kentucky for the upcoming 2015 season:

Louisiana Lafayette: The renovated Commonwealth Stadium season opener will cost UK $950,000. In the one-game contract signed in March of 2013, the Ragin’ Cajuns will be given 5,000 tickets to sell and will return any unused tickets by Aug. 1. They also will receive 300 complimentary tickets.

Eastern Kentucky: When the Colonels come to Commonwealth Stadium on Oct. 3 as part of a one-game deal signed in April of 2011, they will earn a flat fee of $450,000. EKU will receive 300 complimentary tickets and be given 4,000 tickets to sell. The contract says Eastern can return no more than 500 of those tickets within two weeks prior to the game at the beginning of October.

Charlotte: Per the one-game deal, Kentucky will pay the 49ers a sum of $900,000 for the game on Nov. 21. The game originally scheduled for Oct. 17 was moved per a contract amendment in 2013 and allowed for the UK versus Auburn game at Commonwealth Stadium on the Thursday night before that date. Per the contract, Charlotte was given 5,000 tickets to sell to its fans.

 

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Cats sign deal to play Southern Miss

Kentucky has found its new opponent for the start of the 2016 season: Southern Miss.

In a contract obtained by the Herald-Leader, UK has signed a home-and-home deal with Southern Mississippi, which will get $200,000 for the guarantee game in Lexington on Sept. 3, 2016.

Kentucky will make a return trip to Hattiesburg on Sept. 2, 2017 but will not have to pay any sort of guarantee fee.

Originally, Alabama Birmingham was slated to be the Commonwealth Stadium home opener in 2016, but the Blazers eliminated their football program six months ago before re-instating it on Monday without a timeline for its return.

The now nullified contract for the UAB game called for Kentucky to pay the Blazers $800,000 for one game.

In that span, UK had to find a new opponent for that opener date, partially hampered by the desire to keep the Cats’ open date in middle of October.

When UK visits M.M. Roberts Stadium in 2017, it will mark the second time that a Southeastern Conference opponent has traveled there in the past three years.

Mississippi State will open this season there on Sept. 5.

“I’m excited for our team and certainly excited for our fans,” Southern Miss Director of Athletics Bill McGillis said in a release from the school, noting that the school had never hosted an SEC school that wasn’t from Mississippi until now.

“This qualifies as big news,” McGillis continued. The SEC games “provide wonderful opportunities to showcase Southern Miss and these games will have a significant impact on not only the city of Hattiesburg, but the entire Pine Belt region.”

The two programs have met twice in football with UK winning both meetings, once coming in 1949 and the other in 1986. Both games were played in Lexington and the Cats won by a combined score of 103-7.

This past season, UK had to pay its first-ever $1 million contract for a guarantee game to Louisiana Monroe (Oct. 11). For the Cats’ three non-conference home games against Tennessee-Martin, Ohio and Louisiana Monroe, they had to spend more than $2 million.

The upcoming schedule includes guarantee games with Eastern Kentucky ($450,000), Charlotte ($900,000) and this season’s renovated Commonwealth Stadium opener versus Louisiana-Lafayette ($950,000).

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Five UK players preseason SEC picks by Phil Steele

Five Kentucky players were named preseason All-Southeastern Conference by Phil Steele, most notably place kicker Austin MacGinnis, a first team selection.

MacGinnis set six school records in his freshman season, including 21 field goals, the most in school history as well as a record 54-yard field goal. The Wedowee, Ala., native also made 41 extra point tries without a miss last season.

Fellow sophomore Boom Williams was named to the third team as a kickoff returner.
Junior center Jon Toth as well as senior linebacker Josh Forrest and senior defensive lineman Melvin Lewis were named to the fourth team.

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New stadium field design unveiled

CWSfielddesign

A few months ago, Mitch Barnhart gave a hint about what was to come for Kentucky’s updated athletics facilities, including the $120 million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium.

“What we’ve come to do in our facilities is a pretty clean look that is a little edgy, that’s got an element of cool to it,” the Kentucky athletics director said. “Hopefully we’ve done that. There’s a bit of a traditional piece to it that I want to keep. I want to incorporate all of those things.”

All of those things are evident in the new turf field design for Commonwealth Stadium, which UK plans to unveil on Thursday. We got a sneak peek this morning:

The clean, classic design features the blue checkerboard “pattern of excellence” based on Secretariat’s silks in both end zones and team areas.

The pattern, based on Secretariat’s silks, has been a part of the UK football uniforms for the past five seasons. The painted end zones, which say “Kentucky” in block letters, were a regular request in the BBN First initiative from last summer where UK solicited feedback from fans about many athletics traditions.

The checkerboard pattern in the end zones was test for the final home game in 2014 and became part of the new field’s look, which was designed by UK athletics administrators as well as Coach Mark Stoops.

After its debut on the new Memorial Coliseum floor, the new UK logo is a part of the Commonwealth Stadium turf and extends 10 yards horizontally (the same as the previous logo) from one 45-yard line to the other.

The round SEC logos, a requirement for Southeastern Conference member teams, will be in their same place at the 25-yard line on each side of the field.

The new synthetic turf field is the UBU-Speed Series-S5-M, which is the same surface used in the 2013 and 2014 Super Bowls as well as the Pro Bowl. The new surface is being installed now with completion slated for July.

The new turf is being installed by Vescio’s SportsFields, the company of a former Kentucky player who was a member the UK Southeastern Conference championship and Peach Bowl team, Doug Vescio. The contract was won for $672,500.

The Cats play their season and home opener at the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 5 versus Louisiana Lafayette.

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Stoops discusses cost of attendance variables

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops was asked about a couple of hot button topics while on the teleconference Wednesday morning, including the cost of attendance variables between schools.

For instance, schools like Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State and Louisville each are going to be paying their athletes an additional $5,000 or more based on their cost of attendance calculations, whereas UK reports that it will only be paying athletes an added $3,598 annually. Read more about it in this report from last month.

Since the totals are based on numbers that come from the student financial aid office, not his office, Stoops didn’t feel comfortable commenting.

“The big thing with that is it’s determined by the institution, not the athletic department, so there’s really not a lot to comment on that,” Stoops said. “I don’t think anybody within athletic departments are trying to alter that rule in any way, shape or form, so until something’s done nationally, I don’t think there’s really much for me to comment on about that.”

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