Against The Grain- Final Four edition by: Andy Sullivan
Kentucky vs. Louisville, Ohio State vs. Kansas are the match-ups in the 2012 NCAA Final Four Saturday afternoon and evening. Certainly OSU/KU will be a great game. However, the fact that the ultimate (that’s right, tobacco road fans) rivalry will be played in the Final Four for the first time ever is nothing short of extraordinary!
The Kentucky/Louisville basketball rivalry began in 1913. The rivalry stopped and went dormant for more than 60 years, save a few chance meetings. There is no record as to why the two sides decided not to play during that time. It took a bill in State Legislature to put two universities separated by 75 miles back together on the basketball court. The connection isn’t just close proximity. The last time Louisville went far in the tournament, they lost to Michigan State in the regional final. That week, UK hired John Calipari. Also, when Pitino was UK coach, he beat Cal and UMass in the 1996 Final Four.
Kentucky governor John Y. Brown and his fellow politicians forced an end to the Wildcats’ reluctance to play Louisville. Wondering when was the last time Kentucky and Louisville met in the NCAA Tournament? In 1983, the teams met in a regional final. Louisville defeated Arkansas, Kentucky defeated Indiana. It had been 24 years since these two kings of the court did battle on the “grandest stage of them all” (with all apologies to WrestleMania).
Brown, born and raised in Lexington, earned his undergrad and law degree from UK. He was later President of KFC, which is based in Louisville. He helped buy the Kentucky Colonels to keep it in the city. They won the ABA Championship in 1975. So, when UK and Louisville played in the ’83 Regional Final, Brown felt torn. “My wife had a seamstress. I gave her a red coat and blue coat and put them together half and half”.
Brown still lives in Lexington and said he would root for Kentucky Saturday. I noted earlier the parallels of Coach Cal and Coach Pitino, but omitted one interesting/juicy little bit: after Louisville advanced to the 2011 Final Four (one day before Kentucky advanced), Pitino was quoted as saying when he was at Kentucky, “We would never get jealous of Louisville”. He says “now there are so much petty jealousies”. He also said “there is no jealousy on our (Louisville’s) part”. So, it’s ALL Kentucky’s fault? I’ve been around enough to know that it’s never all one person’s fault.
In a phone interview conducted just this week, Kentucky governor Steve Beshear said that the national semifinal would “put an international spotlight on our state”. He claimed no rooting interest, saying “the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the winner here”.
Just as in the IU game, I have a relative who lives in Louisville. For the record, she will probably be too nervous to watch the game (5:09 pm Saturday on CBS).
Hello, my name is Andy Sullivan. I received my bachelor’s degree in business from Mid-Continent University in May 2009. I began writing for Beech Tree News in July 2009. I enjoy playing guitar, the occasional Wii game, writing, and listening to music. I write a sports blog that can be found at http://andy-sportshorts.blogspot.com. If you have a comment, feel free to leave it in the space below