I hadn’t planned to write the history of why UK didn’t play Louisville all those years, but an influential woman in my life (my managing editor) showed some interest so…
When the University of Kentucky was a poor state-supported school, the University of Louisville was a poor city-supported school.
UK was a charter member of the Southeastern Conference with giants of the South in 1932 when UofL was in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with teams such as the four state teacher colleges (Murray, Western, Eastern and Morehead) plus Transylvania, Wesleyan, Berea, Centre, Union and Georgetown.
Those small schools couldn’t compete with UK.
And UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp thought it was beneath mighty Kentucky to be playing other state schools. Most of the times UK did play UofL, it was in NCAA tournaments.
Reed Started It
Billy Reed, sports columnist for The Courier-Journal, started pushing for UK to come off its high horse and play UofL in both basketball and football – every year.
Billy opened the door and Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame made sure that it stayed open.
When the teams played in the 1983 NCAA Regional Final in Knoxville, Gov. Brown showed up in a suit that was half blue and half red. UofL prevailed 80-68 in overtime. Brown twisted the proper arms and the teams have been playing since.
Brown and I have remained friends through the years and when UK fans complain, I tell them the governor was indoctrinated during his years as a student at Kentucky Military Institute (which was in Lyndon on LaGrange Road in suburban Louisville). KMI wintered in Florida, which gave Brown extra opportunities to play his favorite sport, golf.