1953: At that time, the University of Kentucky had likely the greatest 1-2 punch of college coaches in history, Bear Bryant and Adolph Rupp. The Cats had won 3 basketball national titles and had finished in the Top 20 in college football the previous 4 years. But, as the story goes, at a sports banquet Rupp was presented with a Cadillac while Bryant was given a cigarette lighter. This offended Bryant, so he soon left for Texas A&M and future legend status at Alabama.
So the question is: SHOULD KENTUCKY HAVE GIVEN BRYANT THE CADILLAC AND RUPP THE LIGHTER IF I CAN GUARANTEE YOU THAT KENTUCKY WOULD HAVE 6 FOOTBALL NATIONAL TITLES BUT ONLY 3 BASKETBALL TITLES?
Things to consider before answering:
-Kentucky is really the one major school in the south who puts basketball over football
-While Rupp won 4 national titles, Bryant won 6 national titles at Alabama
If I told that you Kentucky would have 6 football national titles, but the basketball program would have never reached the heights it did/has, would you be OK with that? Some people would argue that Kentucky is a basketball state, but I would argue that the major reason for that was Rupp. If Rupp had left in 1953 and Bear Bryant won 6 national titles at Kentucky, I think this would be a football state, like every other state in the south.
It would have been hard to look into the future in 1953, but clearly being a football school is financially a better move. Even at Kentucky, football is the biggest money-maker, and that’s with a program with limited success. Imagine how much money we would bring in if we had 6 national titles on the resume. So financially it would have absolutely been a better move to keep Bryant and lose Rupp.
I know that some of you consider even talking like this is blasphemous and that basketball is a religion and your life can’t exist without a great Cats basketball team, but this country is a country dominated by football, and it has been that way since the 1980’s and it looks like it will be that way for decades. Frankly, Kentucky is just plain backwards in it’s sports interests, especially in the South. And I am completely OK with that because being the best basketball school is what defines us, and just being another football power would not define us. Although 6 national titles may have changed that, who knows.
So what is my opinion, like you care? Well, I think Kentucky made the right choice. Basketball was rolling by 1953, and football was also on fire, but not yet competing for national titles. Even though under this hypothetical situation, we assume UK wins 6 football national titles, back then nobody would have known that. And like I said before, its kinda cool we are the only southern school who is a basketball school. People say Georgia, and they are just another football power in the south. People say Kentucky, and they are basketball elite, and the only basketball elite, in the south. I can live with that.