A sign of the times?

Before the media’s sneak peek into Commonwealth Stadium renovations this week, I solicited questions from fans on Twitter and a remarkably high number wanted to know what happened to the wooden schedule sign that used to sit on Nicholasville Road.

Kentucky officials said that the support posts have been removed and they stopped being used three or four years ago.

“We had issues with theft and vandalism over the years, plus the actual look of the sign was not great,” UK football spokesman Susan Lax said. “We looked into a whole new structure and lighting for the sign but never got to a point of design and estimate.”

With the schedule so easily accessible on social media, UK didn’t think it was necessary to replace the marker.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/07/25/3959899_cats-staff-keep-recruiting-focuson.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
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Updates on cell service at stadium

Cats fans waiting for cell service improvements at Commonwealth Stadium could be waiting a little bit longer.

Because of ongoing renovations at the stadium, getting a system into place wasn’t feasible, explained Guy Ramsey, UK’s director for strategic communication.

The 2,000 season ticket holders in the premium seats, as well as fans in the suites, will be given access to a wireless network. But the rest of the stadium might have to wait. Heading into 2016, UK might look into investing in a system for the entire stadium.

Providers AT&T and Verizon have done things independently to improve service for users at the stadium. And Verizon is doing a temporary advancement to make coverage better this season. Then the two plan to merge systems in 2016.

“It’s something we’re doing constant evaluation on,” Ramsey said.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/07/25/3959899_cats-staff-keep-recruiting-focuson.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
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How stadium, practice facility help recruiting

Kentucky’s football staff has been selling the dream the past few seasons, but now it’s able to take recruits just across Cooper Drive to see the new $120 million Commonwealth Stadium get its finishing touches and the steel going up at the $45 million practice facility right next door.

“The first couple of years, I’m showing them pictures,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said on Friday. “‘You know, this is what it’s going to be. Yeah, that looks great.’ Then they go somewhere else and it’s already done, and it’s beautiful. So when it’s done, I think it’ll have a real positive effect.”

The billion dollars in classroom buildings, dormitories and other amenities on campus has been a big boost, Stoops continued, thanking Dr. Eli Capilouto multiple times during the UK kickoff luncheon.

“That’s a huge piece in recruiting,” Stoops said.

As for the renovations at Commonwealth Stadium, which includes a new artificial turf surface, he said the team is excited to get going on it.

“They went out there this morning, had a workout out there this morning,” Stoops said. “The players were energized to go out into the stadium, to see it. It’s beautiful. The surface is beautiful … That’s going to do nothing but help us.”

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Mark Stoops after kickoff luncheon

MARK STOOPS
On offensive linemen and what UK is selling to get guys: “I think our coaches have done an excellent job; Coach Schlarman and all of the assistant coaches have worked extremely hard to recruit the best players we can. I’m not allowed to talk about anything specific, but in general, I think we’ve been fortunate to have some very good offensive linemen that we’ve been able to build strong relationships with. Again, I think it’s a credit to our coaching staff and all the good things that are happening here.”

On import of building a great offensive line in SEC: “I think going back to me talking all the way back to year one, I’ve talked about the importance of being strong on both sides of the line of scrimmage. It really all starts there all the time. You have to have great players across the board; we all know that. We’re working on that, but you have to have a physical presence. If you don’t, you don’t have a lot of big chances. In particular if you’re getting dominated on one side or the other like we have at times just physically as we’re building this program. We’re getting closer to it. Last year we were certainly closer to it in the physical aspect. And as we move forward and as we recruit, I think it’s imperative that we continue to get better. It’s a big league.”

On how anxious he gets at this time of year: “I get anxious. We were joking before we got on camera here that after each one of these events it’s kind of nice because it moves us one step closer to getting on the field. I enjoy this, but there comes a point when the talking season’s got to end and you’ve got to get on the field and get going.”

On Steve Spurrier’s news conference: “I didn’t really hear too much about it. I caught a glimpse of it or whatnot. You got to love Coach Spurrier. I know this. We play him the second game of the season, and I promise you he’ll be ready for the Wildcats. So we’ll go to work and we’ll get ready for them as well.”

On if he agrees with Spurrier’s statement that he’s 55 in body and spirit: “Well, I’ll tell you — I would agree with him there. I played golf with him this summer. To just give you one example, I hit a drive down the middle, pretty good drive off one. He’s in the trap, he knocks it up, makes a routine par, and I think I made a bogey or double bogey from the middle of the faraway. So, the guy can still play. He’s a great coach, so I have a lot of respect for coach Spurrier.”

On if the Wildcat package ever comes up when he’s with Spurrier:No, no. When we’re in those kind of environments we’re there to decompress.

On if he had a hand in the design of the stadium renovations:Not in the stadium. I really had nothing to do with the stadium. It’s too much for me to be involved with. That’s in good hands with all of our people. The football building, I had quite a bit to do with that. I had a team of people from my department that worked with me and we worked with the architects throughout the design phase for the new building, but not the stadium.”

On how much of a benefit it is to show recruits the new stadium:It’s very important. Just like I alluded to today at the luncheon, just all the great things that are happening on campus. From everything Dr. Capilouto’s doing with the campus. Put the stadium on top of that and our new building — it’s all important. You know, it’s hard — and we’ve talked about this through recruiting — the first couple of years, I’m showing them pictures. ‘You know, this is what it’s going to be. Yeah, that looks great.’ Then they go somewhere else and it’s already done, and it’s beautiful. So when it’s done, I think it’ll have a real positive effect.”

On bringing Maurice Clarett in to speak to the team:Maurice — we just had an opportunity. I’ve know Maurice, Coach Marrow knows him very well. I recruited him to the University of Miami when he went to Ohio State. Of course, played against him when he was at Ohio State and I was at Miami in the national championship game, so we go way back. His father actually played at my high school. So, I thought he had a good message. There’s a guy that’s showing great humility coming back. He was on top, lost it all, and has come back and has been very successful in his life. And just the outside influences that were part of his demise, I think it’s real important to hear that directly from individuals.

On why it’s important to recruit Ohio:Proximity and my connections and relationships in Ohio. It just makes sense for us. I think the league gets a lot of exposure right now, so I think we’re having some success initially being in the SEC, being so far North. I think a big part of it is relationships, as it always is in recruiting, but I also think a big part of it is proximity and all the great things that are happening in Kentucky.”

On seeming more at ease at these events and whether that is related to confidence in his team: “I think so. There’s always that anxiety, you know, that just ‘What’s next to do?’ It’s never going to end. It’s never ending. So I believe briefly it’s somewhat more comfortable, but I think you know me – you’ve covered me long enough – that I’m much more comfortable on the field. I’m ready to get with our guys and coach our guys. That’s what I enjoy doing. But this has been fun and there’s a lot of exciting things with the team. And yes, you definitely feel more confident, as you should going into Year 3 with a team.”

On what he’s looking for when the team first takes the field: “I want to see us have some poise and execute, so the effort’s going to be there. I think the first practice, they’re always geared up. We only have helmets on the first practice, so you can’t get super physical or you’re going to get guys injured. So, really, we’ve got to execute. We’ve got to be a better football team. The broad strokes are there. Now we’ve gotta refine our skills and get more detailed and make plays when games are on the line.”

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Snippets from Wednesday’s stadium tour

You get some dust in your hair and construction debris on your shoes while touring the renovations at Commonwealth Stadium. You also pick up a few tidbits of knowledge about the $120 million facility. Here are a few extras:

  • The team will have a new room right off the tunnel (under the stunning recruiting room space) where it will meet before games and at halftime. It will be equipped with chairs, dry erase walls and restrooms, as well as space for medical staff and an in-stadium X-ray machine. Across the hall is a space for post-game interviews. This season, the team will dress in its existing locker room space and then head to the field. Once the nearby, $45 million practice facility is completed, the players will get ready there and then walk over to the stadium.
  • A graphics package is being developed for the entire stadium everywhere from the scoreboards (which are one thing that is not being replaced) to the blue walls that separate the field from the stands. “We’re going to have to do these little things to make the house the home,” said Russ Pear, the UK official overseeing the project.
  • The mezzanine and loge level seating includes several soon-to-be cushy lounge areas. The suite level, where glass was being installed on Wednesday, has several indoor lounge areas as well as an outdoor patio on one side.
  • There is a long-term plan to install blue seat backs throughout the lower bowl, but Pear offered no timeline, simply saying “somewhere down the road.”
  • It’s not just the premium seating that will offer new amenities either, Pear noted. The north side of the stadium has much wider concourses as well as new concessions and restrooms. “Just a different personality to the facility when you walk into the bowl,” he said. “Now, we want people to come onto the concourses and go, ‘Wow, gosh this looks fresh.’”
  • The lots surrounding Commonwealth Stadium will be paved in the next two weeks, with the goal to get the paving done before school is back in session.

 

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Cats fan ‘busted’ Bob Stoops on vacation

The coaches’ Car Wash stops on ESPN are generally sanitized, scrubbed quotes, but Mark Stoops did get in one funny story at his sit down with SportsCenter on Tuesday afternoon.

The Stoops brothers have a beach house in Destin, Fla., where they spend a week or two in the offseason hanging out. Some nearby Cats fans offered some comic relief on Mark Stoops’ birthday on July 9 at the expense of his brother Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops.

“Bob and I are sitting there at the beach, got the toes in the water, hanging out, maybe had a cold beer in our hand,” Mark Stoops said. “Kentucky fan walks up to me and says, ‘Hey, Coach, happy birthday!’ Bob looks at me kind of startled and says, ‘It’s your birthday?’ So he was busted by a Kentucky fan on my birthday.”

Bob Stoops will have a chance to defend himself on Wednesday when he has his own ESPN Car Wash trip.

The younger Stoops brother also was asked about the sibling rivalry when there are so many coaches in the same family. There’s not as much as some might expect, Mark said.

“When we get on vacation and get together, we really just want to decompress,” UK’s Stoops said. “When we really want to talk shop and talk football, we go to each other’s location and sit and lock ourselves in a room and talk football for a while. Outside of that, when we’re with family and we’re on vacation, we just want to relax and enjoy.”

 

 

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Stoops discusses Cats QB on SportsCenter

Mark Stoops made a brief stop on ESPN’s SportsCenter during the Southeastern Conference coaches’ Car Wash on Tuesday and hit on several topics, including the quarterback competition between last year’s starter Patrick Towles and red-shirt freshman Drew Barker. Not a lot of news, but here’s what Stoops had to say:

“Patrick Towles played extremely well for us a year ago. We felt very good about him and the improvement he’s making. But he has a very talented guy behind him that redshirted a year ago that’s pushing him in Drew Barker. It will be a healthy competition.

Towles is “going to have the leg up going into camp, but everything’s earned at Kentucky. We need to do that. There’s healthy competition at every position. Everybody likes to talk about the quarterback position, but all of our spots need to be earned. He’ll take the first snaps with the ones and have a great opportunity like he did last year to win the job. But competition’s important to us.”

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UK announces Fan Day for Aug. 8

Kentucky announced plans for its annual Fan Day, which will be held Aug. 8 at 9 a.m. inside the Nutter Field House, followed by an open practice at around 10:45 a.m. at the Tim Couch Practice Fields at the Nutter Training Center.

The UK players and coaches will sign autographs at the event from 9-10:15 a.m. Then practice will run from 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Parking and admission for both portions of the event are free. Parking will be available in the Glenn Nissan Red Lot, Glenn Infiniti of Lexington Green Lot and Glenn Hyundai Blue Lot adjacent to The New CWS and Nutter Field House.

Fans may either walk to the open practice or park near the Tim Couch Practice Fields, in the C8 lot behind the right-field fence of Cliff Hagan Stadium, or the three designated Employee lots on Sports Center Drive, north of Cooper.

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Some synthetic surface updates

While perusing the contract changes and adjustments for the projects at both Commonwealth Stadium and the football practice facility, there was a purchase order for $36,178 that UK needed to add the oft-discussed checkerboard pattern in the new turf.

The alternating blue “pattern of excellence,” as UK refers to the design in the Commonwealth Stadium end zones that are based on Secretariat’s silks, required additional money. The initial contract with Vescio’s SportsFields for turf installation called for solid-colored end zones.

So the additional $36,178 went toward “alternating panels of blue in the end zones. … Work to include additional 7’6” x 7’6” end zone panels with all tape, adhesive and labor necessary to create.”

The pattern has been a part of the UK football uniforms each of the past five seasons. The pattern was tested for the final home game in 2014.

The new synthetic surface is one of Russ Pear’s favorite features at the newly renovated stadium. The UK administrator said the final price tag for it was roughly $1 million.

We got a really neat look out of that; I’m pleased with that,” he said. “I tell people now anytime you fly over this stadium — it doesn’t matter when it is unless there’s 3-4 inches of snow on the ground — it’s going to look just like that every time.”

This week at Media Days, UK’s Mark Stoops said he only visits the stadium every couple weeks. But the field caught his eye last time he did.

“I tried to stay away as they were laying the turf,” said the coach, who called for UK to change to the artificial surface. “I really wanted to see it when it was done, but I peeked in there a few times. Obviously it’s done now and settling in. The field really looks good and the stadium is coming together.”

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Get to know UK players one bio at a time

My annual trip through the biography sections of the Kentucky media guide is complete and there are some fun bits of information available.

There are plenty of smart guys like Jordan Swindle, a future orthopedic surgeon, defensive end Kengera Daniel who wants to be a neurologist and is majoring in bio-systems engineering. Linebacker Kobie Walker ponders a career in civil engineering.

Others have high-powered aspirations. Punter Landon Foster and nickel back Blake McClain both want to be an athletics director (or commissioner of the Southeastern Conference for Foster) one day. Offensive lineman Nick Haynes wants to be governor of Florida. Maybe future federal agents like offensive linemen Cole Mosier or Zach West or linebacker Eli Brown.

If this whole football team thing doesn’t work out, maybe some Cats’ reported hidden talents could come in handy as they form their very own boy band. Daron Blaylock says he’s taking vocal lessons for a Broadway show; fullback Will Thomas Collins, cornerback J.D. Harmon, long snapper Kelly Mason, center Jon Toth, cornerback Jared Tucker and wide receiver T.V. Williams, all say they can sing, and wideout Thaddeus Snodgrass claims he’s a “pretty good shower singer,” too.

Walk-on wideout Cameron Fogle wants to be a country singer. McClain adds that he’s a heck of a whistler.

Tight end Greg Hart plays the guitar and Stanley “Boom” Williams plays the drums (gives the “Boom” a whole new meaning, eh?). Defensive tackle Zane Williams plays the piano and quarterback Patrick Towles said he’s “learning to play the harmonica.”

When the band’s first album comes out, maybe Adrian Middleton will design the cover with his hidden graphic design skills.

There are other fun bits of note like quarterback Drew Barker owning a pet turtle named Nemo. Kicker Max Strong aspires to one day own a tiger. Mason dreams of being a professional fishing guide. Linebacker Dorian Hendrix meditates daily.

Linebacker Ryan Flannigan reports that he can eat 100 wings in 20 minutes. Maybe running back Jojo Kemp can help him with that since he says he’s a great cook.

When asked what they would do if they could trade places with Mark Stoops for a day, linebacker Courtney Love would call a team meeting and then not show up. Zach West said he would “take over the seven kingdoms.” (Man, SEC coaches have a lot of power).

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