KHSAA commissioner discusses possibility of moving from WKU
Last weekend marked the second straight year the Kentucky High School Athletic Association was forced to adjust its schedule for the state football championships because of a conflict with the Conference USA championship game at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green.
The KHSAA’s current contract to host the football finals in Bowling Green runs through 2018, but questions have arisen about the future of the site given the possibility of future conflicts.
KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett addressed these concerns with The Courier-Journal on Sunday night.
* Courier-Journal: Is the KHSAA reassessing its current contract with WKU because of the possibility of conflicts in 2017 and 2018?
* Tackett: I think it’s already at that point. We had a discussion with the (KHSAA Board of Control) in November. Our board technically sets the sites, and I said, “You know, I’m not saying we change and I’m not lobbying we change. I think we need to have a discussion about options and what we have going forward.” Even if we’re just thinking about 2019 and beyond, we’re being irresponsible if we don’t start talking. … I think (WKU) would tell you if their university’s success means we need to look at something else, I don’t think it’s all that problematic for them. I think it’s good for both of us.
* C-J: Would you have other options for hosting in 2017 and 2018 if you decided to break the current contract with WKU?
* Tackett: I think you have to look long-term. We have an agreement to host down here, but it’s flexible for both of us in terms of scheduling. It depends on what we find out. We have to do some exploration. We really have to do some soul-searching discussions with the board. The board that 8-10 years ago awarded the long-term deal (at WKU) has been totally turned over. We have to get feedback from our schools and from our football advisory committee, which is a critical group. It’s time to have that discussion.
* C-J: How big of an issue have the schedule changes over the last two years been for the schools involved?
* Tackett: We heard hardly nothing at all this week. One of the Class A schools expressed some concerns, and I think they were very narrow-scoped to their issues. So, maybe our schools aren’t bothered by this. They spend four weeks finding out on Sunday or Monday when they play next. So, what’s a fifth? At the same time, are you really going to continue to build an event this way?
* C-J: How would you address the history of moving the football finals from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville because of a similar conflict you’re now facing at WKU?
* Tackett: It is no different than the situation we had with the Big East Conference. And after a couple of years of that problem and their former coach – who we couldn’t work with on the scheduling – we had that evaluation and had to move it. At the same time, some of those people who are so pro-Louisville weren’t coming to the games in Louisville. They’re just complaining that they’re not there.
* C-J: What are your thoughts on the other possible sites – the University of Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and the University of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium?
* Tackett: It’s tough because possible alternative sites are so enormous compared to the size of our crowds. Those old all-star games in the summer that had a thousand people in a 50,000 seat stadium, those thoughts are still popping into all of our coaches’ heads. Is that the atmosphere we really want for a state championship?
* C-J: Is Eastern Kentucky University’s Roy Kidd Stadium a viable option?
* Tackett: I don’t think so physical-plant-wise, but I think they have it under development. (EKU athletic director Stephen Lochmueller) has asked that I make some time to talk to them before we actually go out and look for sites. They have some issues in town with housing, but they’re trying to develop some more hotels. This event uses up a lot of rooms, and it’s not something every city can handle.
* C-J: How big of an issue is securing a title sponsor in Louisville or Lexington like you have with Russell Athletic in Bowling Green?
* Tackett: We have a sponsorship that underwrites almost all of the team travel for this event. That’s huge. We’ve never had that from anybody else. There’s only so much the universities can do because they’re all prospective student-athletes and they have NCAA rules to worry about. So you have to involve your tourism commission and your housing people and your sponsors. Somebody has to step up.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.