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Stoops on board with UK-U of L move

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UK's annual rivalry game against Louisville will move to the final weekend of the regular season beginning in 2014. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK's annual rivalry game against Louisville will move to the final weekend of the regular season beginning in 2014. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Mark Stoops has some experience coaching in rivalry games.

The last four years, he has helped lead Florida State into a showdown with out-of-conference foe Florida. Played on the final weekend of the regular season, the game is one of the premier rivalries in college football.

When Stoops arrived at Kentucky, he cited his experience coaching in the game when asked about the Wildcats' own in-state rival - Louisville - as evidence of his understanding of what it means to fans. UK-U of L, however, represented a change for Stoops because it has historically been played early in the season.

But no more, as it was announced Wednesday that the battle for the Governor's Cup will move to the same weekend Stoops became accustomed to facing Florida. He's just fine with that.

"Why not?" Stoops said. "I just left a pretty good rivalry at the end of the year."

Unlike Stoops, offensive coordinator Neal Brown has firsthand experience with the UK-U of L rivalry. He was born in Louisville, grew up in Bardstown and eventually landed in Danville before going on to play at Kentucky. Based on an intimate familiarity with the game, Brown believes the move will do nothing but good for the two schools.

"I think it's going to be - there's not as many games that week, you know - so I think maybe on the earlier in the season, we get lost in the shuffle a little bit," Brown said. "Some people may disagree with that, but later in the year, playing on that rivalry weekend, I think it will be good for us."

Brown, however, understands that the debate over when the game should be played is relatively meaningless. The decision is made and it's now up to UK and U of L to make the best of it.

"It doesn't matter anyway," Brown said. "We're going to play it at the end."

The change was made at the request of the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference. Both leagues will have 14 teams starting next season and wanted to shuffle around the schedule for the good of all of their members. Kentucky and Louisville acquiesced, paving the way for a UK schedule that will finish against Tennessee and Louisville with an open week sandwiched between in 2014.

"It will be an exciting way to complete the regular season with rivalry games against Tennessee and Louisville," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "Playing an in-state rivalry game on the last weekend is a popular tradition shared by many prestigious football programs."

As Stoops knows, Florida-Florida State is among that group. Neither he nor anyone on the Louisville side of things would mind seeing UK-U of L grow into a football rivalry that generates similar national interest.

"The Florida-Florida State game is pretty big, a pretty big deal at the end of the year," Stoops said. "From my understanding, that was what was best for both conferences, so that'll be great. That'll be a lot of fun."

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