Earlier this week, Western Kentucky University football coach Willie Taggart criticized students in Bowling Green who like to wear blue and white University of Kentucky attire.
Regardless of the reasoning, Taggart wasn’t happy. Maybe he was trying to get students in Bowling Green to show pride in their school. Maybe he was fired up about his team’s contest against Kentucky Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
To his credit, Taggart apologized for a remark he made during a press conference earlier this week in which he stated, ”everybody wears (UK attire) and I hear people ask them why they do it, and the reason they’re at WKU is probably (because) they couldn’t get into UK.”
There are other factors that determine a student’s decision to attend a particular institution. Maybe some of them want to be close to home, maybe some of them received scholarship offers in both athletics and academics. Sometimes it’s past family loyalty, while other times, it’s a family financial decision, especially given the current economic climate.
In reality, students at Western feel a loyalty to the Hilltoppers in the classroom, but some of them”Bleed Blue” when it comes to athletics. It’s the same for other state universities such as Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State and Murray State. Some students are fans of both schools and there’s nothing wrong with splitting athletic loyalties, but it can create issues when the two schools play each other in sports.
Truth is, Kentucky’s fan base surpasses that of the Hilltoppers, and that following extends from one end of the state to the other. The Wildcats also have a global fan base that reaches beyond the United States. No disrespect to other state institutions, but Kentucky also is known as the state’s flagship university.
Western shouldn’t compare itself with the Wildcats, even though it no longer competes in the FCS. Kentucky competes in the Southeastern Conference and Western is a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Hilltoppers have their own battles to face without trying to turn a four-game series into something that’s not there and never will be.
Kentucky and Western have played on the gridiron just three times, therefore, a rivalry doesn’t exist between the two schools. Kentucky and Western isn’t a rivalry game like, say, Kentucky and Louisville and Western and Eastern Kentucky University.
When the current four-year deal between Kentucky and Western expires, the Hilltoppers and Colonels need to get together and renew their rivalry that ended in 2008 after Western made the transition to the FBS.
Taggart knows better than anyone, the Eastern-Western rivalry is an intense one, simply because he played for the Hilltoppers when the two schools played each other on a regular basis.
He also should get a taste of what it’s like to coach against the Colonels and experience a true rivalry again instead of trying to create one that doesn’t exist.
At the same time, Eastern needs to do whatever it takes to renew the series even if it means playing their”home” game on a neutral site, such as Lexington or Louisville, because Roy Kidd Stadium doesn’t meet the seating requirements for Sun Belt Conference schools.
Eastern and Western is more of a rivalry, one that should be resumed instead of placed on the back burner.
UK Football: Wildcats-Hilltoppers not traditional rivals
Keith Taylor/Sports Editor/The Winchester Sun