If you haven’t heard, the shortlist of NCAA Division I schools in the state of Kentucky gained a new member this summer: the Bellarmine University Knights
. After crushing it for the last decade-plus in Division II, Bellarmine announced their move to join the top level of college basketball last year
, joining the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Now, it’s actually happening, as the move was made official this week. And as it just so happens, KSR has an inside source monitoring this momentous transition: me!
As a rising senior at BU who’s attended nearly every home basketball game for the last three years, I can confirm this news is not only a big deal for my school, but also for the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky as a whole. I’ll explain why in this post, along with five reasons why Coach Cal needs to add Bellarmine to UK’s schedule ASAP
. Go Knights!
[caption id="attachment_305448" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Bellarmine Head Men's Basketball Coach, Scott Davenport (Photo: @ASUN_MBB)
#1: Because Scott Davenport is an absolute gem
If you're at all familiar with the Louisville basketball scene, then you know all about the legend of Scott Davenport, the winningest coach in Bellarmine's 70-year history
. After presiding over the most successful 12-year period in program history, he has a heck of a resume
: since being hired in 2005, he's led the Knights to six Great Lakes Valley Conference titles, 12 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, four Final Fours, and took home the National Championship in 2011. From 2010-2019, his teams posted a .836 overall winning percentage, good for third in all of Division II.
To the city of Louisville, however, he means a lot more. Known by nearly everyone on campus simply as "Coach D," Davenport has been a reliable and friendly figure in the Bellarmine community for the last 15 years. Before that, the Louisville native served as an assistant under Denny Crum. Then, he led Allan Houston and Ballard High School to a state championship in 1988, before returning to UofL and coaching alongside Rick Pitino. Davenport is Louisville, Kentucky, through-and-through, and it's about time he got his chance in the spotlight.
To paraphrase a quote he gave to WDRB's Eric Crawford
last year, moving to DI is a big deal for the school, but a bigger deal for the city—and the state, too
. So let's make this happen.
[caption id="attachment_305450" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Photo: @BellarmineU
#2: Because Knights Hall goes CRAZY
It was once one of the best-kept secrets in the city, but it may not stay that way much longer: on game days, Knights Hall is the place to be. If you've never had the chance to attend a Knights home game, I highly recommend it—but get there early, because the parking spots go quickly, and the traffic can be a nightmare.
Just how much of a home-court advantage does Bellarmine have? Consider this: between 2014 and 2019, the Knights rattled off 67 consecutive victories in Knights Hall, the longest active home-court unbeaten streak in Division II for several years. I was in the building for at least 20 of those wins, when the atmosphere during a scoring run was often louder than Rupp Arena; and don't even get me started on the noise after the team scores 85 points, and everyone wins free Zaxby's chicken
. It just doesn't get any better.
We all know how John Calipari feels about mid-major road games, so I don't expect to see the Wildcats in Knights Hall any time soon. But wouldn't that be fun?
[caption id="attachment_305451" align="aligncenter" width="630"] Photo: @BUKnights
#3: Because Bellarmine's Cheerleaders are Champions, Too
What's one thing Bellarmine and UK have in common, other than storied basketball traditions, academic excellence and quality concession-stand sandwiches? (did I mention the Zaxby's?) That's right, both have championship-caliber cheer squads.
The Knights don't have quite the same level of dominance at the Division II level as the 'Cats do for D-I, but they are a program on the rise after capturing their first-ever NCA/NDA Collegiate Cheer title in 2019
. The dance team also won it all that year, earning their second championship
as the school made a clean sweep at the awards show in Daytona, Florida.
I should also mention the lovable Knight mascot, who was the subject of a hotly-contested on-campus debate this past spring when it was announced that he would be getting a new name
with the transition to D-I. The winning vote went to the name "Valor," which had a very mixed reaction from students (I, for one, voted for "Bobby B"). For the inside scoop on this shocking event, see the video below from my good friends at Knights Media Network, and #SupportStudentJournalism!
#4: Because of the History
Although Scott Davenport's name has become synonymous with Bellarmine basketball in recent years, the program's coaching lineage holds a number of names that should be familiar to UK fans. For starters, look no further than ESPN radio personality Bob Valvano
, brother of the legendary late N.C. State head coach, Jim Valvano. From 1994-1998, Bobby V. led the Knights to steady improvement, finishing with a winning record over his four years at Bellarmine.
Additionally, BU was once the first step in the coaching career of UK's former All-American center, Final Four MOP and two-time national champion, Alex Groza,
whose jersey hangs in the rafters of Rupp Arena. Groza, who saw his playing career cut short after being implicated in the 1951 point-shaving scandal
, spent seven years coaching the Knights before moving on to coach the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA. In 1963, he led Bellarmine College to it's first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
The work of these men helped lay the groundwork for a whole lot of success, including that 2011 National Championship, which was recently commemorated with a live webcast replay
on Bellarmine's website.
If you're feeling nostalgic, take a minute to watch this "One Shining Moment" tribute
to that memorable season on YouTube. It's good stuff.
#5: Because it's What Thomas Merton Would Want
Maybe this is a reach, but after three years of living on Bellarmine's campus, I feel like I have a fairly strong connection with Thomas Merton
, the late Trappist monk and famous theologian who essentially serves as the school's spiritual mascot. The other night, he came to me in a dream and told me Bellarmine should play a basketball game against the University of Kentucky. Who am I to stand against advice like that?
In all seriousness, we need to make this happen. I may be a little biased, but ask anyone who's been to a game and they'll tell you Bellarmine basketball is truly a delight to watch—plus, they have a habit of almost beating Louisville
, a tradition I for one proudly support.
So, can someone get John Calipari on the line already? I'm ready to watch some basketball.