The only silver lining UK fans can find in Louisville’s National Championship is that it makes the state of Kentucky the king of college basketball. With back-to-back titles coming home to the Commonwealth and one likely on the way next season, there is no denying that no one does basketball better than the Bluegrass. However, Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky that the Commonwealth’s success on the hardwood is not equivalent to the state of Alabama’s success in football.
The commonwealth of Kentucky is not the basketball equivalent of the state of Alabama in football.
Not quite, not yet and probably not ever.
This is more than a numbers game you can’t win, although on that score at the moment, the national championship count stands Us 17, You 11.
That’s 15 for Alabama and two for Auburn – officially; the Tigers could claim a bunch more – compared to eight for Kentucky and three for Louisville.
It’s an interesting argument. For years, people have compared John Calipari to Nick Saban in terms of recruiting and success. Although this year’s Kentucky squad failed to meet expectations, Cal has restored a tradition rich program back to national prominence, much like Saban at Alabama. When describing the passion of the Big Blue Nation, maybe the only fan base in America that can relate is Alabama’s.
College football is much more popular in the US than college basketball, with the possible exception of March Madness, and similarly, the NFL is America’s game, not the NBA. So yes, I can see Scarbinsky’s point about the sport as a whole being bigger. Yet, on the other hand, you can argue that makes Kentuckians’ passion for basketball even more impressive.
Scarbinsky does point out the difficulties in comparing the number of national championships won by each school in their respective sport; while college basketball has the fairest way of determining a champ, college football is still forced to abide by the BCS until the 8-team playoff system goes into effect in 2014. In my opinion, that completely nullifies the comparison.
Also interesting is Scarbinsky’s comparison of the Kentucky/Louisville and Alabama/Auburn rivalries. He pointed out that Cal sent Louisville (key word being Louisville, not Pitino) a congratulatory tweet after they won their title and that neither Gus Malzahn/Gene Chizik or Nick Saban would ever do that to each other, but as we know, that was merely Cal being a politician. (Also, again, he did not congratulate Pitino by name for winning the title or being elected to the Hall of Fame.) Sure, I doubt many Kentucky fans would “go Updyke somewhere on the U of L campus,” as Scarbinsky writes, but one Louisville fan did have the nerve to drive to the Wildcat Coal Lodge after they won the title and wave a Louisville flag around. Different levels of crazy, yes, but as we can attest, the rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville is definitely on the rise, especially now that both teams have another championship under their belt.
Your turn. Which is better right now: football in Alabama or basketball in Kentucky?