Why Kentucky vs. Louisville is the best rivalry in college sports

Written by: Ben Brown – Staff Writing Intern (@TheBigShalom)

Everyone knows Duke vs UNC and Auburn vs Bama, but not everyone knows UK vs U of L. Part of the argument is that this is a relatively new rivalry. The teams have only had a regularly scheduled game since 1983. Also UK has dominated the series leading 25-11 and since John Calipari has been at UK, the cats have only lost one time.

With UK absolutely dominating the series, why is this such a big rivalry? First, the coaches. Rick Pitino coached Kentucky from 1989 to 1997 before he left to fail in the NBA. The man passed up Kobe Bryant in the draft. He returned to college basketball in 2001, not to UK, but to the school up the road, the University of Louisville. Needless to say, the UK faithful were not happy to see him in red. John Calipari has owned Pitino and Louisville since he has been at UK. He is 8-1 in the series including two tournament meetings. The rivalry really took off when Coach Cal got to UK. With two fiery personalities, the rivalry left the court and both coaches found themselves making jabs at each other whenever they could.

The prestige of both teams has also fueled the rivalry. Since 2010, both teams have been ranked when they met which has lead to very competitive games. The two tournament meeting are both games to remember. One year in the Final Four where UK went on to win the championship and the other in the Sweet 16 which ended with Aaron Harrison hitting a game winning 3 to knock the defending champion Cardinals out of the tournament.  The regular season games are played as a home and homes. Not having a neutral setting allows the home crowd to have a strong presence. This year’s game will take place at the Yum Center in Louisville.  

This rivalry isn’t just two teams. This rivalry is the whole commonwealth. The City vs the State. It’s fueled by hate, jealousy and pride. Pride being the biggest factor. The citizens of Kentucky don’t have a professional team to cheer for, they only have UK or UofL. So for the most part, they live and die by the college basketball season. The next chapter of the rivalry opens up tomorrow night at 7pm with UK coming in ranked 6th and UofL ranked 10th.


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