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September 10, 2013
The rivalry with the University of Kentucky may not have quite the same feel for many University of Louisville fans these days. Anyone who makes light of the fervency that divides the schools, however, is totally dismissing reality.
Quite a year 2013, a year in which UofL defeated UK in all of the major sports, claimed a national basketball championship, won a BCS Sugar Bowl game against Florida, went to the College World Series and was invited to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The best part of it all for many Louisville fans was that all of this was occurring while Kentucky was slumping, rebuilding, watching from the sidelines. A school that UK refused to schedule for decades, UofL not only owned the state, but was a national contender in so many sports.
Some would argue that Louisville doesn't need the rivalry anymore now that its athletic program has achieved parity with, if not superiority over, the Lexington-based school. Among the driving forces for Cardinal fans over the years was gaining respect from UK supporters, standing toe-to-toe with them, wanting them to respect, possibly even acknowledge UofL's success.
Not that Big Blue Nation would ever do that. How many UK fans have congratulated their counterparts on winning the national championship or the Sugar Bowl win? Most UofL fans can count them on one hand.
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UK fans don't really need to verbalize their respect for the rival they love to hate, their actions often do it for them, diminishing UofL at every opportunity. One Kentucky blogger refused to even mention the word Louisville in a preview of the upcoming football game. Another publishes unsubstantiated rumors about the program, suggesting that the local media refuses to investigate because it is in Tom Jurich's hip pocket.
Kentucky's rivalry with Louisville has surpassed the decades-old Tennessee in intensity. The Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences took the dramatic step of making the UofL-UK football game the final game of the season in 2014. The schools had little choice but to go along with the schedule change. Louisville replacing Tennessee as UK's final opponent would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Both schools have boosted financials commitment to their football and baseball programs and other facilities. The construction of the KFC Yum! Center and the expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium had to be a major catalyst for?ats?fans wanting multi-million investments in their old football and basketball facilities.
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The rivalry takes on greater significance nationally with both schools having captured NCAA championships in basketball for the past two years, approximating the appeal of the Duke-North Carolina and the Auburn-Alabama confrontations in their ferocity. People and institutions that don't get along, but measure their own success in comparison with the achievements of their opposite member.
The feud recently seeped into the health care field, with UK jockeying to replace UofL as the primary provider for Kosair Children's Hospital. Who knows where the rivalry will manifest itself next? The rivalry is an integral part of daily life, especially in Louisville, where an estimated 36% of local residents consider themselves UK fans.
The question is not whether the University of Louisville or the University of Kentucky still needs the rivalry. The competition between UofL and UK, the unquenchable desire to be the better school in whatever endeavor, is what still drives them. Everyday.
Charlie Springer, the founder and owner of UofLCardGame.com, is a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and former Managing Editor of Louisville Magazine. In addition, he was Internal Communications Manager for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation and currently serves as a Legislative Consultant for the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. He is a University of Louisville graduate and a longtime fan.
UofLCardGame.com has been covering University of Louisville athletics since 2007. Click Click HERE to read more of Charlie's writing at UofLCardGame.com