A Guide To Football In Kentucky

Football is a beloved sport in Kentucky, with high school and college teams drawing in large crowds of enthusiastic fans. Whether you’re a die-hard Wildcat supporter or simply enjoy the excitement of a good game, there are plenty of opportunities to experience football in the Bluegrass State.

For those who are new to the sport or looking to learn more about Kentucky football, a guide can be incredibly helpful. This article aims to provide just that, offering a comprehensive overview of the state’s football scene. From the high school playoffs to the University of Kentucky Wildcats, readers will gain a better understanding of what makes football in Kentucky so special.

History of Football in Kentucky

Kentucky has a rich history of football, with the sport dating back to the late 1800s. Today, football is an integral part of the state’s culture, with high school and college football games drawing large crowds of passionate fans.

Early Years

The first football game in Kentucky was played on November 12, 1881, between the Kentucky University (now known as Transylvania University) and Centre College. The game was played using a different scoring system than the modern game, with touchdowns worth four points and field goals worth five points. The first official football team at the University of Kentucky was formed in 1892, and the team played its first game against Kentucky State College (now known as Eastern Kentucky University) in 1893.

High School Football

High school football has a long and storied history in Kentucky. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) was formed in 1917 to oversee high school athletics in the state, and football quickly became one of the most popular sports. Today, the KHSAA sponsors a state championship tournament for high school football teams, with six different classes based on school size.

College Football

College football has a strong presence in Kentucky, with three major programs in the state: the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the University of Louisville Cardinals, and Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. The Wildcats and Cardinals both compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the NCAA, while the Hilltoppers compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

The University of Kentucky football program has a long and storied history, with the team first fielding a squad in 1892. The Wildcats have won two conference championships and have made 19 bowl game appearances. The University of Louisville football program has also had success, with two conference championships and 23 bowl game appearances.

Western Kentucky University has a more recent history of success in football, with the team winning two FCS national championships in 2002 and 2007. The Hilltoppers have since moved up to the FBS, where they have had success as well, winning three conference championships and making five bowl game appearances.

Current State of Football in Kentucky

High School Football Today

Kentucky high school football has a rich history, with many talented players and successful teams. Today, high school football remains a beloved sport in the state. There are over 200 high school football teams in Kentucky, with the largest classification being 6A. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) oversees high school sports in the state and organizes the state championship tournaments.

College Football Today

Kentucky has two major college football programs: the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University. Both teams compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The University of Kentucky Wildcats play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), one of the most competitive conferences in college football.

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers play in Conference USA. In recent years, the University of Kentucky has experienced a resurgence in their football program, with several successful seasons and bowl game appearances. Western Kentucky has also had success, winning multiple conference championships and bowl games in the past decade.

Professional Football Today

Kentucky does not have a professional football team, but the state is home to many passionate NFL fans. The closest NFL team to Kentucky is the Cincinnati Bengals, located just across the Ohio River. Many Kentuckians also support the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, and other nearby teams.

There have been several attempts to bring an NFL team to Kentucky, but none have been successful. In 2020, the XFL announced that they would be bringing a team to Louisville, but the league folded before the team could play a game.

Overall, football remains a beloved sport in Kentucky, with a strong tradition at the high school and college levels. While the state does not have a professional team, Kentuckians remain passionate about the sport and support their favorite NFL teams.

Famous Kentucky Football Players and Coaches


Kentucky has produced many talented football players over the years. Some of the most famous include:

  • Tim Couch: The former quarterback led the Wildcats to their first New Year’s Day bowl game in 50 years in 1999.
  • Jared Lorenzen: Known as the “Hefty Lefty,” Lorenzen was a fan favorite for his size and ability to move well for a quarterback.
  • Craig Yeast: The wide receiver set school records for career receptions and receiving yards during his time at Kentucky.
  • Randall Cobb: Cobb played multiple positions at Kentucky, including quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. He went on to have a successful career in the NFL.


Kentucky has also had some notable football coaches throughout its history. Here are a few:

CoachYears CoachedRecord
Bear Bryant1946-195360-23-5
Fran Curci1973-198147-51-2
Jerry Claiborne1982-198941-46-3
Rich Brooks2003-200939-47

Bear Bryant is perhaps the most famous Kentucky football coach. He led the Wildcats to their first SEC championship in 1950 and went on to have a legendary career at Alabama. Rich Brooks also had a successful tenure at Kentucky, leading the team to four consecutive bowl games from 2006 to 2009. His teams were known for their strong defense and physical play. Overall, Kentucky has a rich football history with many talented players and coaches.

Football Stadiums in Kentucky

Kentucky is home to several football stadiums that host college and high school football games. Here are some of the notable football stadiums in Kentucky:

StadiumLocationCapacityHome Team
Kroger FieldLexington, KY61,000Kentucky Wildcats
Cardinal StadiumLouisville, KY65,000Louisville Cardinals
Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith StadiumBowling Green, KY22,113Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Commonwealth StadiumRichmond, KY20,000Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Kroger Field, also known as Commonwealth Stadium, is the largest football stadium in Kentucky, with a seating capacity of 61,000. It is located on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington and serves as the home field for the Kentucky Wildcats football team.

Cardinal Stadium, located in Louisville, is the second-largest football stadium in Kentucky, with a seating capacity of 65,000. It is the home field for the Louisville Cardinals football team.

Houchens Industries–L. T. Smith Stadium is located in Bowling Green and serves as the home field for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers football team. The stadium has a seating capacity of 22,113.

Commonwealth Stadium, located in Richmond, serves as the home field for the Eastern Kentucky Colonels football team. The stadium has a seating capacity of 20,000 and was opened in 1969.

Overall, Kentucky has several impressive football stadiums that provide a great atmosphere for college and high school football games. Whether you are a local or a visitor, attending a football game in one of these stadiums is a great way to experience the passion and excitement of Kentucky football.

Football Culture in Kentucky

Football is an important part of Kentucky’s culture. The state is home to two major college football programs, the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the University of Louisville Cardinals. The rivalry between these two teams is fierce and well-known throughout the state. However, there are other football traditions that are just as important to the people of Kentucky.


The rivalry between the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the University of Louisville Cardinals is the most well-known football rivalry in the state. The two teams play each other annually in the Governor’s Cup game, which is always a highly anticipated event. The rivalry goes beyond the football field and extends to other sports and even academics. Fans of both teams are passionate and loyal, and the rivalry is a source of pride for the state.

Another important football rivalry in Kentucky is the Battle for the Beer Barrel between the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee. The two teams have been playing for the barrel since 1925, and the winner of the game gets to keep it until the next year’s game. The rivalry has been intense at times, with some controversial moments throughout the years.


Football traditions are an important part of the culture in Kentucky. One of the most well-known traditions is the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Great Balloon Race. The race takes place during the Derby Festival and features hot air balloons in the shape of footballs. The balloons are launched from the Kentucky Exposition Center and race to a finish line at Bowman Field.

Another football tradition in Kentucky is the tailgating culture. Fans of both the Wildcats and the Cardinals take tailgating seriously, with elaborate setups and delicious food. Tailgating is a chance for fans to come together and celebrate their love of football and their team.

In conclusion, football is an important part of Kentucky’s culture, and the state has a rich tradition of rivalries and traditions. Whether it’s the annual Governor’s Cup game or the Battle for the Beer Barrel, football brings people together and creates a sense of community and pride.


Football is a beloved sport in Kentucky, with a rich history and passionate fans. From high school games to college rivalries, there is no shortage of excitement and energy when it comes to football in the Bluegrass State.

Throughout this guide, we have explored the various aspects of football in Kentucky, including the state’s top teams, players, and coaches. We have also delved into the history of the sport in the state, as well as its impact on the local community.

Whether you are a lifelong fan or a newcomer to the sport, there is always something to appreciate about football in Kentucky. From the thrill of a last-second touchdown to the camaraderie of tailgating with friends, football brings people together and creates lasting memories.

So next time you find yourself in Kentucky during football season, be sure to catch a game and experience the excitement for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

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