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Unpopular Rivlary Opinion: I want Louisville Sports to Get Better

Kenny Payne
LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 30: Assistant coach Kenny Payne of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Rupp Arena on January 30, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Over the last few weeks, some in this fanbase have shown insecurity about our little brother, the University of Louisville. Over the last 3 years, UK has experienced a dominance over Louisville that hasn’t happened on the basketball court and football field together, maybe ever. The football team has won the last 3 games against UofL by a combined score of 153-44. On the basketball side, UK has won 11 of 14 games since John Calipari arrived, including 2-0 in the NCAA Tournament. It’s been bright days for UK in the rivalry.

But the hiring of Kenny Payne and the dramatically improved recruiting of Scott Satterfield have some (not many) feeling nervous in this fanbase. UK basketball is on shaky ground right now and NIL conflict has some questions brewing amongst the football fanbase. Could the rivalry be shifting back towards the Cards? Let me address this on two fronts:

First, hell no it isn’t. Games are not played in board rooms or on the recruiting trail. They are played on fields and courts. And until Kenny Payne proves his coaching chops and until Scott Satterfield proves he can coach his way out of a paper bag, those two programs don’t worry me. It’s not out of the realm that Scott’s Tots play so poorly this year, before the great class even comes in, that he is toast at the end of the year. And then those guys might not even come. And the UofL basketball roster isn’t looking too great either so if UofL misses the tournament again this year, does the fanbase become impatient again? The point being, I’d rather be us than them right now.

But secondly, and I don’t care how unpopular this is to be, I want UofL to get better. A great rivalry isn’t great because one team beats the piss out of the other every year. If that were the case, we’d be rivals with Jacksonville State in football. No, what makes a great rivalry is great games, players, and moments. UofL has provided none of those for a few years. Think about the football wins over UofL under Stoops:

  • 2016: 41-38 (Lamar Fumble)
  • 2018: 56-10 (Petrino fired)
  • 2019: 45-13 (Bowden runs wild)
  • 2021: 52-21 (Levis dominates)

I would argue the Lamar fumble game is clearly the one that was most satisfying. And that wasn’t because that UK team was so great. It was because that UofL team thought THEY were. Beating good UofL teams will always be more memorable and provide more ammo in the rivalry than beating them down when their football team can barely complete a forward pass.

The same goes for basketball. The best wins, for me, are the two NCAA Tournament wins. And why? Not just because they were in the tournament but because they were against two of Pitino’s best teams at UofL. Give me a matchup against ranked programs than one against a Cards team headed to the NIT. Remember that David Padgett squad? Yeah, me neither.

Rooting for UofL to improve their programs and rooting for them in games are not the same thing. But which would you rather have:

  • A. 11-0 UofL comes to Kroger Field with a chance to make the playoff and we beat them
  • B. 0-11 UofL comes to Kroger Field and we beat them by 50

Give me Option A every day. A rivalry is all about deflating your rival’s hopes and dreams. If a crappy team comes to Rupp or Kroger and we smash them, it doesn’t matter to UofL fans at all. What kind of rivalry is that?

Now, does hoping their teams get better bring in a greater risk of actually losing games? Of course, it does. But what kind of program and fanbase are we when we’d rather our rival be awful all the time because we’re too scared to play a good team. That’s Mitch Barnhart’s style of schedule when it comes to football. Too scared to take a chance. But as a fanbase, I’d rather increase the risk of losing if it means hurting them more when UK wins.

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