"Kentucky basketball has always been like a religion to me," said Kirkpatrick, a Henderson native. "It was how I was raised."
It's also the way Kirkpatrick and her husband, David, are raising their daughters — 8-year-old Saylor and 3-year-old Laney — even though the family lives in Florida.
"They know. They have known since they were born what UK is about. They know when the UK game is on, the house is all UK," Kirkpatrick said. That's just the way they have been raised. Way I was raised. When we went to our grandparents on Sunday, we ate and watched the UK?game. There was no TV on in the other room, you didn't run around the house and you didn't go outside. You all sat and watched the UK game. That was our family time. If you were to call my dad during a game, he would be getting ready for the game. Same with my husband's parents. Call my grandmother — my grandfather is not there because he passed away two years ago — but she would be getting ready for the game. You know what everybody is doing at game time no matter where you are in the country. My sister is in Dallas, but she will be getting ready for a game. That's just what you do, and my husband is just like me."
Kirkpatrick says she was "always a cheerleader and was born to cheer." She actually cheered at Western Kentucky University her freshman year until UK?sponsors spotted her and asked her to join the Kentucky squad, which she did her sophomore season.
"I cheered for the Lady Cats and football," she said. "Then I got afraid to do some of my tumbling — I?had a mental block. They tried to help me just like they do the athletes, but I?just could not get over it. I still have a good relationship with the cheerleaders."
She met her husband her third year at UK, dated him two years and then was engaged for two years. "He went to dental school at Kentucky. We got married right after that and have been married for 10 years," she said.
She was at the 1998 Final Four in San Antonio when UK won the championship under Tubby Smith on row four in the student section with her sister. "We met Dickie V. (Vitale) at the Alamo. He was so pleasant and that is a big memory of mine," she said. "Now he's retweeted me a couple of times and I tell him I?am coming to Sarasota sometime to talk basketball with him."
The family went to Florida after her husband finished his residency from the University of Louisville — "we don't even have that framed and my younger brother attends med school at Louisville and we say what, ‘Wouldn't Kentucky take you?'"
Her oldest daughter, Saylor, had a liver transplant when she was only 8 weeks old.
"The medical care in Florida is great, and that's a big reason we are not able to come back home," Kirkpatrick said. "She got off hospice right before kindergarten and is doing great now. She is close to eight years post transplant Jan. 17."
The Kirkpatricks brought their girls to Rupp Arena for the first time Thursday — they had not been back since 2004 either. Andrea and her husband go to postseason games, but they wanted their children to experience Rupp Arena and start seeing what the UK?tradition means.
"Being a Kentucky fan in Florida is really hard sometimes, especially during football season. However, we stand by them and can't wait until basketball season every year,"?Kirkpatrick said. "I wear so many Kentucky shirts — you can never have enough blue — that when I?go into familiar places they say, ‘Miss Kentucky is here.' When explaining to someone where I?live or how to get to our home, I simply get them on my street and then say, ‘Just look for the huge Kentucky flag flying.'
"Ask our girls where they will go to college and they will simply say, ‘UK.' We often tell them stories about campus life and UK's tradition. While watching the games they ask us, ‘Can we go to all the games like you and Daddy did.' I simply say everyone. Recently when planning for college, we told our financial planner to go ahead and plan for two out of staters. Our girls will be two Florida girls coming to Kentucky. I want them to have the tradition not to mention the fun. we had while at UK."
She says she's converted a couple of Florida fans to Kentucky fans even though they likely would not admit it.
"Maybe that's why I?am a passionate Kentucky fan living in Florida Gator infested swamp lands to spread the lore of the Big Blue to all of those who did not get the honor to be raised a Wildcat," she said.
She says she was raised to:
1. Hate Duke.
2. U of L doesn't count.
3. Tennessee, hate that ugly orange.
4. UNC, wrong color blue.
5. KU, got those letters backwards. "We have something for every team I think," she said. "One time my grandmother said she kind of liked North Carolina and we all still don't let her live that down. All siblings on both sides of the family are UK grads. Needless to say, we have a ‘blue Christmas' every year."