By Terry Meiners
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Lexington, Ky. --- Several months ago, University of Louisville officials repeatedly tried to schedule an exhibition game against the Harlem Globetrotters in Rupp Arena. Fearful of insulting the Kentucky Wildcats, Lexington Center officials made vacuous excuses as to why the facility was unavailable on various dates. Most of the rejections were based on murky projections or outright lies. They were told that such-and-such show was already penciled in or that setup time for another exhibition made the U of L visit impossible. "Sorry," they'd imply before U of L would even ask for a specific date, "whatever day you want is already taken."
Louisville pitched various times during any given day; Rupp Arena officials tossed back various rejections.
The truth is that University of Kentucky officials put down the hammer and so Lexington's beleaguered tax base was robbed of a lucrative night of entertainment. To hell with the taxpayers, we simply can't allow these Jefferson County people who pay the most taxes in the state to use our precious Rupp Arena. That's how petty some grownups can be over something as innocuous as college basketball. An expensively refurbished Lexington Center is in so much debt that it would likely rent space for a Michael Jackson boy band sleepover before it would rent to U of L.
There's just no way UK could allow Rick Pitino to bask in any form of basketball glory in Rupp Arena again. The fear is that U of L might continue to make positive impressions on basketball fans out in the state that, through generational chauvinism, are expected to bleed blue.
Tell the Globetrotters to trot somewhere else. Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals have finally burst through barriers of boneheads with a commanding come-from-behind whipping of the Kentucky Wildcats on their home floor. Yesterday's stunning victory against the #1 Wildcats will drive more statewide love into the Cardinal column. Kids love Extreme excitement. Louisville plays with Extreme excitement.
Some kids may put on their UK caps in front of their dads but their rebellious sides are telling them to switch over to the hot program. Louisville is definitely on the Must See list just for making average-to-good players play superstar basketball with reckless abandon. Extreme is the theme on this Louisville team. Don't think every impressionable young kid doesn't covet the feeling. He does. And he does it without any knowledge of Pitino's Lexington days of running the same kind of Extreme program.
It's all fresh to today's kids. A minority of Big Blue faithful are really anger management candidates disguised as UK fans. As they throw down hateful slurs at Rick Pitino, kids love to watch these bullies in the stands get their comeuppance. U of L 65; UK and the hateful bullies in their bleachers: 56.
And it is only the beginning of a new era of dominance for U of L over UK in both football and basketball. One of the wealthiest men in Lexington told me recently that UK is now firmly in an athletics freefall to Louisville "that will take generations to turn around." That prominent Lexingtonian uttered those sentiments at a recent U of L game in Freedom Hall. And his kids were with him and loving every minute of it.
Louisville dominates the football series. UK football is handcuffed by probation restrictions on scholarships thanks to the Hal Mumme era of deceit. Louisville is now firmly in charge of the basketball series in terms of Pitino's 7-1 record against his former assistants. Pitino is now 2-1 against UK since coming to Louisville. U of L is headed to the Big East, which is by far going to be the toughest basketball conference top to bottom. UK is graduating most of its best basketball players with mostly average players remaining. U of L has a parade of superstars in the pipeline for the next several seasons.
Now comes the vulgar talk of money.
The University of Louisville's facilities upgrades have dwarfed fundraising opportunities for UK because so many former Wildcat boosters now send money to U of L because of their affinity for Pitino. U of L will eventually build a new basketball practice facility. UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart is hitting roadblocks in the state legislature to get a similar basketball practice facility at THE state university. Barnhart is regularly crossing the state line to attempt to find deep-pocketed boosters elsewhere. Not long ago, rich Kentucky guys lined up to donate to UK. President Lee Todd's restructuring efforts to thwart future probationary problems combined with the Pitino Factor down the road have dried up a great deal of UK athletics' cash flow. Not to mention that the late Governor Wallace Wilkinson bilked a great many wealthy UK boosters out of their money through a ponzi scheme that left many of them broke. They have no money left to give to UK.
Saturday's CBS telecast of U of L manhandling UK is just another chapter in Tom Jurich's masterpiece athletics empire he has assembled in just over 6 years. How many young eyes watched that game and easily singled out which team plays Extreme ball versus Expired ball? The University of Louisville is quickly staking its claim as THE university in Kentucky.
And all of this unstoppable momentum is making the nutty segment of UK fans red in the face. That has to be the deepest cut of all.
Inside The Ville also wants to send best wishes to Terry for a speedy and full recovery! Hope to see you back on your feet soon TM!