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The Big Blue Daily Mail -- UK-Louisville Rivalry Heating Up

The big news today is the rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville that has been growing like an out-of-control wildfire since John Calipari came to Kentucky.  Not only do Calipari and Pitino have a personal rivalry that dates back to their Conference USA days, but that is multiplied by the historical rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky which is just looking for any excuse to explode.  The genesis of the intense part of the rivalry was that Calipari was apparently making public comments directed at the officials before a 2003 game which culminated in a Louisville loss in which Memphis shot 48 free throws.  Pitino publicly chastised Calipari, calling him "amateurish and unprofessional."  The rivalry further heated up when Louisville bolted CUSA for the Big East, and refused to continue their contractual obligations to play Memphis.

I think that was an example of Pitino at his worst.  Louisville and Memphis were a great rivalry for many years in CUSA, and fans of both schools really looked forward to that annual series.  But Pitino, in a fit of pique, put an end to a great series that never should have been discontinued, arguably just to hurt Calipari.  I think that both men have acted out a bit to stoke the fires of the rivalry, but perhaps only because of my Big Blue Shades, I think Pitino's behavior was more unfortunate.  Calipari now has an opportunity to get some measure of payback if he wants it.  I'm sure he would deny it to anyone who would ask, but it is human nature to want to defeat rivals in every possible way, especially not-particularly-friendly rivals, for which the Pitino-Calipari rivalry definitely qualifies.

Now, the players are getting into the act, at least here in Louisville.  The Courier-Journal reports today that Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa have apparently been hearing it from somewhere (ostensibly, but not necessarily from UK fans), and are feeling a bit motivated by it all.  Obviously, as the team on the outs for the last several years, UK is anxious to return this series to one to look forward to instead of one to fear, and the suddenly powerful Wildcats have UK fans smelling blood in the water.  The Calipari-Pitino angle is just going to raise the tension, and the stakes, to a fever pitch, especially this year.  While the coaches continue to downplay the rivalry in comments to the media, there is no doubt that tension between these two men has been well-documented, and it is hard to believe it has simply dried up and blown away.

The Louisville-Kentucky game this year will be among the most anticipated since the very first dream game in 1983, and rightfully so.  While the hiring of Rick Pitino by Louisville produced a very intense game in 2001, the 2009 game is likely to eclipse that game by a wide margin, both for UK fans and Louisville fans.  Louisville fans have not forgotten John Calipari from the CUSA days, and seeing him leading the hated Blue and White will likely stoke their passion to levels unattainable by any other sports event.

"Interesting" doesn't begin to describe the upcoming game.  It will certainly eclipse the Duke-UNC rivalry, at least for this year and possibly for a long time to come, as the most anticipated college basketball rivalry game of the year.  Since I have been a Kentucky fan, this is quite possibly the most anticipated college basketball game I can remember since #5 Kentucky faced #3 Duke in the regional final in 1998, and is likely to eclipse even that on.

Now, the rest of the news:


UK Basketball News

  • Coach Cal on Meeks, Summer Workouts, and Roster
    Nice interview with Coach Calipari.

  • Brandon Knight and Tobias Harris visit other schools
    Bluegrass State Basketball has the scoop.

  • Jaylen Beckham of Lexington Catholic #36 for 2012
    UK recruit Perry Ellis from Wichita, Kansas is #1.

  • Sewickley native Calipari achieves dream
    Calipari's home state newspaper writes about Calipari achieving his dream:

    "'I think he gets a bad reputation because he's a great recruiter and everyone assumes that he's doing something illegal,' said former Central Catholic star Jim McCoy, who played for Calipari at Massachusetts from 1988-92. 'I highly doubt that's the case.'"

    I think this is exactly right.

  • Ex-Kentucky student Pilgrim to visit Memphis
    "[Matt Pilgrim] did not want to leave [Kentucky]. And that's one of the reasons why sources told that Calipari is working with new Memphis coach Josh Pastner to make this likely transition go as smoothly as possible. According to sources, Calipari and Pastner have been in contact, and Calipari has told Pastner he will not only release Pilgrim to Memphis, but that he will back Pilgrim's expected request of a waiver that, if granted, would allow Pilgrim to play for the Tigers this season. "

    I hope that request is granted, and that we are never in this situation again.

UK Football News

  • Kentucky greats, Couch and Yeast, discuss Newton
    Great to see Couch and Yeast commenting on Newton. Lots of good highlights. Don't miss it.

  • Kentucky coach Brooks calls for more enforcement
    "Brooks doesn't believe that self-reported, secondary violations are always inadvertent missteps. He believes there may be more afoot as some programs try to get an upper hand in recruiting.

    "I think that some of these things are not accidental," Brooks said on the News Sentinel's radio show, The Sports Page. Brooks called for changes in enforcement, saying that will keep the amount of secondary violations from growing."

    I think Brooks has a point. These repeated "secondary" violations look like abuse to me, and its time to deal more harshly with them, particularly with repeat offenders.


  • UK football notebook: More Cats arriving on campus
    "There had been some eligibility questions regarding junior-college signees Chris Matthews and DeQuin Evans, but both players have now arrived from Harbor College in California and are on campus and enrolled for the second summer session."

    Great news for Brooks & Co

  • John Clay: Ranking Kentucky's last 10 football coaches
    I think he has it about right.

  • Fame might sneak up on UK tackle Peters
    "While most players with his size and talent level visualize being the next Warren Sapp, his dream job is to become another Coach Carter. 'The NFL was never really my goal," Peters said. 'You hear all these young players coming up like, 'I gotta make it; I gotta make it.' I never thought like that. My goal was to be a teacher. My parents always put it in my head that football was just a game.'"

    What a level-headed player. Good for him.

Other UK Sports News

NCAA Sports News

Other News of Interest

The Daily Schadenfreude

  • Dookies unhappy with Williams' departure
    "There’s no getting around the fact that losing Elliot Williams hurts. It hurts the defense and it especially hurts depth. Three guards was iffy but doable; two is really bad news. Add to that the fact that Duke lost all their other midsize players from last year except for Jon Scheyer - Gerald Henderson, Dave McClure, Marty Pocius, and now Williams are gone. It’s a big hit."