Kentucky Basketball: Succeed and Proceed - The Fan Behind the Slogan

Andy Lyons

I caught up with René Cornette for a brief Q&A about how she came to be the creator of the now famous UK slogan, and her thoughts on her time as a UK fan and being selected by Coach Cal.

If you asked most random college basketball fans what was the first thing they thought of when it come to the phrase "one-and-done," my guess is that most would answer with some variation of UK or Coach John Calipari. Calipari was fed up with the negative association that was attached to the expression. "One-and-done has now become a bad connotation," Coach Cal said.

He set out on a mission to change that saying, and what Coach Cal did is put the Big Blue Nation to the task of what it does best; some armchair coaching. Calipari put the challenge out there on his radio show to come up with a better name for "one-and-done."  What happened after that was an avalanche of tweets, emails, and suggestions that he whittled down to the one he liked best. Coach Cal decided that the construction "succeed and proceed" was the best representation of what he is trying to accomplish.

"So the connotation is, no one wants to put their arms around this, and I don't care if you do or not, this is about the kids to me," Calipari said. "So when I said, 'Why don't we make this about succeed and proceed. If you don't succeed, you can't proceed. If you do succeed, you can proceed.'"

Calipari goes on to discuss the merits of the "succeed and proceed" slogan in terms of more than the on the court success.

"We have had four years of a B average, we graduated 12 guys, we have had guys that have gone on to the N.B.A. and had college degrees," he said. "We have had 17 players drafted. Many of those just changed the whole direction of their family. Every one of them in the league right now is doing well."

I caught up with the brains behind "succeed and proceed" recently. This UK fan came up with the slogan that showed up on the players during the Final Four, and on royal blue T-shirts in stores all across the Commonwealth. Her name is René Cornette, and she is from Harlan, Kentucky. Here is the tweet where Coach Cal picked her offering from among the others:

In addition to part-time slogan-maker, René happens to be a contributor to Vaught's Views, which many of you know as the blog maintained by Larry Vaught of the Danville Advocate-Messenger, Scout.com, and all around Kentucky journalism legend. Let's find out some more about René:

  • Tell us a little about yourself, who is René Cornette?

    "I am from Harlan, Kentucky. I have lived here all 32 years of my life. I enjoy watching Kentucky Basketball and football, spending time with my family and reading."

  • How long have you been a UK fan and what made you want to be a part of the Big Blue Nation?

    "I have been a Kentucky fan since birth. I grew up watching Kentucky games with my dad and keeping the players stats in my notebook. My life revolved around Kentucky basketball and when I wasn't watching games, I was outside pretending to be my favorite Kentucky players while playing basketball. In Kentucky basketball isn't just a game, it's a family tradition, and my father passed that tradition down to me and I thank God for that."

  • What is your fondest memory of UK Basketball?

    "My fondest memory as a UK fan would be every single one. I think the greatest thing about being a UK fan is it's a life long love affair that begins at birth. It allows us to witness so much greatness. We truly are blessed as a fan base. I have witnessed three championships in my lifetime and countless great games. The run our team this year went on is one that is near and dear to my heart, though. This season was a journey that had so many ups and downs that it made the tournament run so much sweeter. Aaron's clutch shooting and the sheer thrill of watching a young team come together and do what so many thought was impossible is something I'll never forget."

  • Who is your favorite UK Player of all time and why?

    "My favorite Kentucky player of all time would be Tayshaun Prince. I loved everything about his game. "Tayshaun is not a prince. He's a king." Who could ever forget his five 3-pointers against UNC and the way he did it without even breaking a smile. I always loved the way Tayshaun kept his emotions close to his heart. He just went out every game ready to give his all. I loved that about him."

  • If you could change one moment in UK history that you witnessed what would it be and why?

    "If I could change any UK moment in history, it would be "The Shot". I literally cried myself to sleep that night and still to this day like countless other UK fans the replay of that shot brings all of that emotion rushing back. I still hate Laettner and if I could change that shot from going in, I would. It would save all of Big Blue Nation a lifetime of torment. Can I get an amen?"

  • So here we are, you are the brains behind "succeed and proceed." Tell us a little about how you came to the slogan.

    "When I heard about Coach Cal wanting suggestions from fans to replace "One and done," I just started thinking about what our players truly represent. Our Kentucky players are here to be successful. They want to hang banners, win games, and make their mark on Big Blue History. They love our university and fans and just like us once they get a taste of the Kentucky life, it turns their blood blue. That cannot be diminished or ignored just because they may not be your typical four-year player. Our players succeed at UK and as a result, they have to proceed on to the next level, which is the NBA. That is what "Succeed then Proceed" means. It is the embodiment of what our players truly represent. It is who they are at their core."

  • How you have felt to see it take off so fast with the players wearing the shirts and seeing them in stores?

    "I never thought in a million years that Coach Cal would take a liking to my slogan. The fact that it struck a chord with him is still something that brings me so much joy. Every time, I hear him say the slogan or see our players wearing the "succeed and proceed" shirts, I feel an extreme amount of pride and happiness. I have been humbled by this entire experience. I will never be able to put into words how it feels to see your thought given life by the coach of our Wildcats. It's been such a wonderful, dreamlike experience and if I live to be a hundred, I will always look back on this time and smile. It's really been a joyful time for family, my friends, hometown, and me. I think that's the best part of this, so many people have experienced this with me."

Thank you René for sharing this with all the BBN and A Sea of Blue.  We are all proud to call you a fellow member of the Big Blue Nation and we look forward to future sloganeering!

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