UK-Louisville, other SEC rivalries affected by league-only schedule

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — When the Southeastern Conference announced plans for a league-only football season last week, many rivalry games in the league were wiped off the schedule.

For more than two decades — 26 years to be exact — Kentucky and Louisville have played each other on the gridiron. The renewal of the series in 1994 began as the season opener for both teams until it was moved to the final game of the year in 2014.

The Wildcats have won three of the past four games, including a 45-13 victory last year in Lexington, meaning the Governor’s Cup will remain in Lexington for the third straight year.

“Everyone would like to play a full schedule, including our rivalry game with Louisville, but this timing and format give us our best opportunity to adjust to these unique circumstances,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.

Not only will Kentucky not be competing against its main rival this season, other teams in the SEC also won’t be playing their in-state foes. Florida won’t be taking on Florida State for the first time in 62 years.

Since the series began in 1958, the two longtime rivals have played in football and Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin, former sports information director at Kentucky, tried to keep the game intact as the league decided its future fate last week. Ultimately, Stricklin said, “We ran out of Saturdays.”

“Once you start looking at starting [in] late September, and there was a consensus that we wanted to try and play 10 conference games, you start really impacting the number of opportunities you have to play those games,” he said. “And so, the league made the decision. We made the decision we wanted to move the conference championship game back a couple of weeks. We wanted to keep that Dec. 12 date available for any rescheduling that needed to occur. And once you do that, you have 11 Saturdays to play 10 conference games."

In addition, Georgia won’t be playing Georgia Tech this year, a historic rivalry that dates back to 1893.

"That game means so much to everyone, and it's just unfortunate that it was affected,” Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity said. "There is so much change going on in today's world that we just need to expect the unexpected. It just was not able to be worked out, and it's unfortunate, but we look forward to resuming that rivalry in 2021, and we'll just go from there."

Also missing from the schedule will be South Carolina’s rivalry game against Clemson. The two schools have played every season since 1909, a rivalry game that been played every season for the past 111 years.

"We're disappointed to hear of the scheduling decision announced by the SEC, as we know the importance of The Palmetto Bowl to the state of South Carolina," Clemson Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich said last week. "Clemson aggressively lobbied the ACC to include an additional non-conference game for the primary purpose of maintaining our long-standing rivalry game with South Carolina.”

It’s been a year of adjustments and disappointments and the casualty of rivalry games in the SEC has been the latest victim of the coronavirus crisis. 

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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