The Kentucky-Louisville basketball game has been buried into the busiest part of the sports calendar for far too long. It’s time to make a change, one that all parties will agree is a win-win-win.
This year’s game is scheduled for December 29, the same day as the College Football Playoff. It’s the worst possible date in a week where bowl games have already captured the nation’s attention. Like last year, it could conflict with a potential UK or UofL bowl game. The SEC and the ACC has ties to the Belk Bowl, which will be played at noon on December 29.
The week between the Christmas and New Year’s has become the traditional time slot for the Bluegrass basketball rivalry. Since the regular season series resumed in 1984, the game has been play outside of the holiday season seven times. Most recently, there was a three-year stretch between between 04-06 when the game was played in the middle of December. That’s not the perfect date. The perfect date is the week before and coincides with another great tradition in college sports.
The perfect date for the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game is the same day as the Army-Navy football game. First suggested by former KSR colleague John Wilmhoff, there are multiple reasons why this is the ideal date.
1. Army-Navy is the only significant sporting event on the national calendar. Bowl games have not yet begun, giving an opportunity for college basketball to capitalize.
2. There are no conference conflicts. The biggest obstacle to moving the game into February is the conference basketball schedule. The ACC has no incentive to accommodate Kentucky-Louisville when they already have other great rivalries to boast.
3. Each team is already playing decent non-conference opponents. This year Louisville will play Indiana on December 8. On that same date Kentucky will travel to Madison Square Garden to play Seton Hall. At this point in the year, each team will already have a few warm-ups against weaker non-conference foes and neither fan base will have a problem ending their non-conference schedule with a comparable above average opponent like Seton Hall of Indiana.
4. It’s Perfect for CBS. Army-Navy already draws a huge national audience. If you add another marquee college basketball rivalry, the network can market the rivalry angle and kickstart their college basketball coverage with a bang.
5. National Attention. It’s similar to the previous point, but it’s worth restating: if you coincide the Bluegrass rivalry with one of the nation’s oldest rivalries, it validates Kentucky vs. Louisville on a national scale in a way that was only replicated at the 2012 Final Four.
Putting the Kentucky-Louisville game on the same date as the Army-Navy rivalry makes too much sense. There’s no good reason why all parties can’t make this happen to create a perfect scenario for the Battle of the Bluegrass.