Posted: 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, June 12, 2013
It's not trolling to say that Auburn and Kentucky both had awful sports years in the 2012-13 academic year; it's simply a statement of fact. In the postseasons for "big three" SEC sports of football, men's basketball and baseball, the Tigers and the Wildcats were locked out. Completely.
Neither school's football team played in a bowl. In a particular shock for Kentucky under John Calipari, both men's basketball teams missed the NCAA tournament. And despite UK's strong start in baseball, the Wildcats and Tigers were left off of the list of teams playing for Omaha as well.
Particularly in the days when basically any .500 AQ team makes it to a bowl game, that kind of reverse trifecta is rare for SEC teams. In fact, beginning with the 2000-01 year, it's happened 13 times. And with Tennessee also on board in 2012-13, it happened three times in the year that's coming to a close -- the most teams to face that fate since the turn of the century.
If you're looking for the list, it is (barring this year's three teams and accounting for research flaws):
The good news is that outside of Vanderbilt's stretch of futility last decade and Tennessee's two-year run (which has so many, many root causes), no one's ever gone through this two years in a row. Whether that's because of small sample size or randomness or the fact that you almost have to try to be that bad in three different sports is another matter. But history suggests that things will turn around in one of those sports for each of these teams.
Whether it's football individually is the rub we will be dealing with for the rest of this week. (Baseball put us a bit off schedule, so things are going to be compressed this week.) There are new coaching staffs being installed, and it's not like either of these teams is in a weak division. Three teams from each division could credibly win 10 or more games this year, and some of those wins are likely to come at the expense of Auburn and Kentucky.
It is more likely, particularly for Kentucky, that one of the other sports will turn around in 2013-14 than the football team. And of course, just because it hasn't often happened to a non-Vanderbilt team two years in a row doesn't mean it can't.
That's the pessimistic way to look at this, though. The optimistic way goes something like this: These two programs have already bottomed out. Nowhere to go but up.