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Can Kentucky and Louisville Simultaneously Succeed in Football?

There’s a lot of excitement about the beginning of the Mark Stoops era at Kentucky. Stoops has brought new life into the program and is already recruiting at a level we have not seen before, especially in such a short time. Kentucky fans are talking football right in the middle of basketball season, and for once KENTUCKY football is the talk of the town in early January instead of  just our SEC brethren playing for another BCS title. Za’Darius Smith,  Asiantii Woulard, Ben Bradley and Jaleel Hytchye are getting as much attention as Coach Cal’s recruits on the hardwood. If you would have told me this is the way things would be several months ago, I wouldn’t believe it, but that’s not all I would not have believed.

I also wouldn’t have believed several months ago that Louisville would not only receive an invitation to the ACC, but that they would also keep Charlie Strong from taking a job at Tennessee, then go on to upset Florida in the Sugar Bowl, and then get a commitment from James Quick a few days later. Everything seems to be going right for Kentucky since Stoops has arrived, but everything is also going right for our in-state rival. There is no escaping the fact that Louisville is building a program that should be a consistent winner that Kentucky will have to compete with on the field and on the recruiting trails. Is it possible for two strong football programs to co-exist in Kentucky at the same time, or is there just too little in-state talent to support two winning programs?

History says that this state is only big enough for one winner on the football field. When Bobby Petrino was at Louisville, Kentucky for the most part struggled. The fortunes of the two schools reversed when Petrino left for the Falcons. Louisville proceeded to hire Steve Kragthorpe and Kentucky stuck with Rich Brooks, and the result was 5 straight bowl games and 4 straight wins in the Governor’s Cup for the Cats.  In 2011, everything changed when Charlie Strong beat the Cats and denied them of what would have been another six-win bowl appearance. As we all know, 2012 spiraled out of control as the Cats finished 2-10 in the last year of the Joker Phillips era and Louisville won the Sugar Bowl.

The trend of only one of the two schools succeeding at the same time is nothing new. In the history of both programs, the 2006-07 season is the only year in which both teams have won bowl games in the same season (UK defeated Clemson in the Music City Bowl, UL defeated Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl). Furthermore, the two schools have only played in bowls in the same season five times ever (’93, ’98, ’99, ’06, and ’10). The point is, Kentucky has had the most success in football when Louisville’s program has been down, and vice versa.

So what is so different now? Will Kentucky be able to succeed with Charlie Strong at the helm in Louisville? If Stoops quickly elevates the UK program, will Louisville begin to decline? The key to both programs will be to recruit at a high level outside of the state. Past Kentucky and Louisville coaches have relied heavily on Jefferson County and other top in-state talent. When UK has been on the upswing, they’ve recruited well in Louisville. When UL has been winning, UK has struggled recruiting in Louisville. If both teams are winning, the key to survive will be the ability to recruit nationally at a high level. Charlie Strong has proven he can do this and Mark Stoops is doing it very well so far. 

If each coach can maintain success at their respective schools, perhaps each school’s achievements can develop into a benefit to all, making for a better rivalry. A better rivalry means more excitement, more exposure, more money, and ultimately better players for both schools. Can it happen? Can Kentucky and Louisville football co-exist, and each win at the same time?

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on blogredmachine.com. Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

30 Comments for Can Kentucky and Louisville Simultaneously Succeed in Football?



  1. Blue Jesus
    8:04 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    It seems as if the dynamic is a little different because both coaches have strong ties outside the state in talent rich areas: Florida, Ohio, Texas, etc.



  2. Cayts
    8:06 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    Depends on what you define as success. If both teams are equally good, then UL gets BCS bowl for going 11-1 while UK goes 9-3 due to conference strength.



  3. UKBlue
    8:08 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    Who cares what Charlie Strong does; the idiot wasn’t smart enough to get rid of Coach Hurtt once the Miami scandal info broke compounding their problem. Once Bridewater is declared ineligible for illegal benefits, and UL has to forfeit all their wins, it won’t matter about UL. I almost feel sorry for all these stupid UL recruits throwing their college football careers in the toilet.



  4. idiot
    8:21 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    hi my name is UKBlue and I write the same nonsense on every blog post. You can’t play the “his infractions didn’t happen while he was here card” with Cal and then try to apply it to Hurtt. sorry



  5. idiot
    8:22 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    and until Hurtt gets something put on him hes still cleaner than UK



  6. dave
    8:25 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    another. uofl. post.



  7. UKFaninaSingleWide
    8:26 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    We cannot compete against the mighty Cards. All of us white trash fans should just accept it.



  8. Big Whoop
    8:28 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    UL and UK are mutually exclusive. What one does has no effect on the other since both have to rely on out of state talent.



  9. UKHillBilly
    8:28 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    I thought Louisville didn’t exist. Then again, without Louisville, paved roads and indoor plumbing would not exist in the restg of the state.



  10. Duffus
    8:28 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    Duffus says: No question Hurtt is crooked and Strong knows it–Bridgewater knows it–but does the NCAA care–probably not!!!!



  11. blah blah blah
    8:29 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    “Can Kentucky and Louisville Simultaneously Succeed in Football?” Yes.



  12. UK2014title
    8:40 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    Wonder why World Wide Wes was at Johnson’s game a couple days before he committed to uk? I thought Cal told Mitch Wes would not be involved with the program.

    @AdamZagoria: Hearing that Worldwide Wes is among those at Roselle Catholic tonight where Dakari Johnson is. The 6-11 Johnson is down to UK, Cuse & GTown



  13. TrollsKeepingKSRGoing
    8:58 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    Looks like KSR has decided to keep feeding the trolls. Clearly it’s profitable since they refresh the screen every 5 seconds and comment more than UK fans now. Well played, KSR. I can’t blame ya for chasing the green.



  14. UofSmellThug
    9:01 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    It sucks because Lexington is ranked higher in education, business and career opportunities than Louisville. In fact, Louisville is ranked behind Lexington in Forbes’ “Top cities.”



  15. mudcreekmark
    9:04 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    Getting Kentucky kids is not the key to either schools. There are probably only 4 or 5 kids good enough each year to compete in the SEC. The key is having recruiting ties to the south.That is where the majority of the SEC studs come from.



  16. Can't have both
    9:04 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    UL is a house of cards, it will not survive scrutiny.



  17. LouisvilleFan
    9:06 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    I was going thru WWWs trash the other night and I found a receipt for a New Jersey McDonald’s. Dakari Johnson just happened to be in New Jersey on the same night. Coincidence you say? Well he ordered TWO #4 value meals, not just one. And I went thru Dakari’s trash in his room and found a Big Mac wrapper. Refute that, BBN. You can’t. Cheaters.



  18. Forbes
    9:08 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    14 We actually ranked Louisville as the 16th dirtiest city in the nation in 2012.



  19. Dick Gosinia
    9:14 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    U of Smell cheats!



  20. Sugar Strong
    9:28 pm January 6, 2013 Permalink

    I don’t see why we couldn’t co-exist. Our conferences are inherently different, the SEC is a lot more defensively driven and the running game is a HUGE part of SEC offense. One of the main reasons we walked away winning in New Orleans.

    Then there are the examples of kids that just want to play SEC ball, which is fine. I would love to see UK put together a good team as well as us. That way when we play it will be a hard fought contest, no matter who you’re cheering for.

    I would take a good UK team that takes it to the 4th quarter than a team that rolls over. And don’t worry big blue…it was the same way a few years back. I’m sure you would’ve rather (even though you won’t admit it) played a ranked Lville than an unranked one.



  21. Peter Kuttcutt
    12:43 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    Can Kentucky and Louisville Simultaneously Succeed in Football? Can WKU down in Bowling Green with Bobby Petrino also have a dog in this fight? Will WKU beat UK again in 2013? If they do, and then UK beat Louisville, would you not have three Division I schools in the state ‘succeeding’?



  22. Blue Boy
    12:44 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    Just wonder if UK is the only school that plays both WKU and UL(little brother) I don’t think Strong would play WKU on a home and home arrangement.



  23. T-O-P-S
    4:21 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    How could you forget about WKU in this post? With Petrino coming to Western and making gains in recruiting. I see UK make the trip back from Nashville next year with a loss on there hands to start the season. This post should be about U of L being a successful program. WKU a rising program and UK being the rebuilding program.



  24. FatBlueKid
    6:48 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    UaVel success ends next season, with Bridgeyear leaves. They will go in the toliet. Maybe not as bad as Kragthorpe as long as Strong is there, they won’t be that bad. After next season, we may never lose to them again. They are not recruiting at the same level when Hurtt 1st got there. Hurtt has had to pull back the reins a little bit to not get caught cheating. They have to cheat to get kids to come there. WHy would you go there if big time schools are recruiting you?? I can see local schools but kids from Fla going there are going for 1 reason and 1 reason only $$$. While us on the other side, will get kids as the program improves, we have a great university, great conference to play in. We have so much more to offer then City School it’s unreal. Their time is running out



  25. NoFoolAmI
    7:40 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    #24 $EC Doormat U can not compete with the #1 and #2 football schools in the state.



  26. REALITY
    7:43 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    #23 UK has been “rebuilding” it’s football program for SIXTY years with little success…I am 63 years old and have had very little to cheer about. Hope spring eternal, but at some point REALITY sets in.



  27. Lou
    8:17 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    If UK has a passing game that resembles the one that beat LSU when they won the NC then it won’t make any difference how good UL happens to be. Don’t worry about THAT program just think about how rosy our future looks compared to how bad it has been and be glad we will be once again competitive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



  28. WereTalkin'LouisvilleIsSigning
    8:19 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    A day after landing Trinity High School All-America wide receiver James Quick, the University of Louisville Cardinals scored again with the Class 6-A state champion Shamrocks, getting a commitment from junior quarterback Reggie Bonnafon – U of L’s first pledge in the 2014 class.

    “I told (U of L coach Charlie Strong) how I was pumped about the program and how I felt the program was going nowhere but up, and he was excited about me committing,” Bonnafon said. “He’s real excited about the future.”

    Bonnafon, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound player, welcomed the chance to be an early commitment to U of L.

    “It’s pretty cool to know that I’m the first one (in 2014), and hopefully I can get some good athletes in my class to hop on the train,” he said.



  29. Gatorhater
    10:46 am January 7, 2013 Permalink

    I am a Charlie Strong Fan and followed him to Louisville, I love what he is doing, but the Card Fans are Jackasses and have no real understanding of the Business of Sports.

    At least you guys understand that Ky is a non producing hs football state for the most part.



  30. Cardsfan
    1:38 pm January 7, 2013 Permalink

    @29 – How do Cards fans not have a real understanding of the business of sports? Our basketball program is the only collegiate basketball program in the top 10 most profitable collegiate programs (fball/bball/hockey/etc). We understand, and for a while football was on the back burner.

    We realize that KY is not a huge football producing state, that’s why Quick was such a huge win for us. We are very deep in Wide receivers, but his commitment shows other KY players that we are a program that is on the up-and-up. Things will only get better as time goes on an we join the ACC.

    The other reason we can manage to get quality players from Florida is because;
    1) Charlie has a strong coaching reputation…as shown when 7 Gators came to hug him after the Sugar bowl
    2) Teams with players that UK drool over will never be released to play for another SEC team…example Adrian Bushell was a transfer from UF and turned into a key player for the Cards.

    I also don’t understand why you think our game is over because Bridgewater might declare for the draft after next season. We are already deep in QBs (4 excluding Teddy)