Mark Stoops’ frustrations with Kentucky football’s indoor practice field are clear and well-documented at this point. Leading up to the 2021 season, the UK head coach voiced his displeasure in the team’s indoor accommodations on numerous occasions, specifically the track surrounding the practice field.
Rather than a regulation 120-yard practice field, the indoor field is cut off at the corners with a track to make it only 100 yards. It not only limits the team when weather forces the Wildcats to practice inside, it’s also an injury hazard.
“It has an impact on us with our practice with what we’re getting. It does not benefit us,” Stoops said during his call-in radio show back in August. “We got a track around our indoor (facility). I don’t have a 100-yard field. It impacts us heavily.”
He doubled down on the issue just a few days later during Kentucky’s pregame press conference prior to the team’s season-opener against Louisiana Monroe.
“We need to address it,” Stoops said. “We need an indoor [facility]. Let’s face it. We need an indoor. You can do the research in the Power Five, how many teams don’t have a full indoor. There are two. Us and Vandy.”
That’s no longer the case, as Vanderbilt announced plans for a new indoor practice facility that will include a full-length practice field. Once complete, Kentucky will be the only school in the SEC with a shared indoor facility.
Again, Stoops isn’t happy with the current arrangements. And he made that clear during his call-in radio show Monday.
In short, if Kentucky wants to continue to knock down barriers, the team needs to have the facilities to match the other top programs in the SEC.
“We’ve got to get that track out of there,” Stoops said Monday. “It’s just dangerous and it affects my practice, that’s the bottom line. We want to sit here and compete the rest of this year and play at a high level. Knock on wood, the weather’s been good, let’s pray it stays that way. Or it’s going to interfere and we’re going to miss practice.”
During an appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio back in September, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart acknowledged that the Nutter Field House is outdated. Ideally, the school will build an indoor facility for the track and field team and expand the field at Nutter from there.
When money allows for it — COVID-19 hit the department hard — the adjustments will be made.
“It’s old — it’s older. It allows us to do some stuff.” Barnhart said. “It needs more run-out, is what it needs. The track is around it and we’ve talked about finding a way in the facilities to create an indoor facility for our track team to prepare.
“Obviously, some of the people that won medals in the Tokyo Olympics, people are very proud of what they’ve done, and they trained on that track. Clearly some world-class athletes have been on that track. We’ve got to get the track out of there and get it wall-to-wall with grass so we don’t have the run-out issues.
“Other than that, we can revamp it and it’ll be fine in terms of widening. We hope (it will happen soon). It’s not one of those things where you can flip the switch on. Keep in mind, let’s go back to what’s happened in the last 18 months. We were just trying to survive financially.”
It’s clear Stoops’ patience is wearing thin on the matter. Time to put pen to paper on an official announcement.