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True or False: 6 Classic UK Sports Urban Legends


On the latest episode of my podcast, Nazr Mohammed debunked a popular story from his time at UK about Rick Pitino making him run home from Rupp Arena instead of taking the team bus to lose weight. In a time before social media, that story was everywhere growing up, the feel-good fable for Nazr’s quest to shed pounds his freshman year; however, Nazr swore it’s not true, chalking it up to another UK urban legend.

That got me thinking…what are some other famous UK sports urban legends? With help from fans on Twitter, I came up with a list of six.


1. The Bear Bryant/Adolph Rupp lighter/Cadillac story

By far the most famous urban legend surrounding UK sports has to do with two of its most famous coaches. Before building a dynasty at Alabama, Bear Bryant was on his way to building one at Kentucky, but left after eight seasons for Texas A&M. Bryant had several years left on his contract, and, over the years, the rumor became that he left because, at an athletics banquet, head basketball coach Adolph Rupp was presented with a Cadillac while Bryant was only given a cigarette lighter, symbolizing the school’s preference for basketball over football.

Verdict? FALSE

Diehard UK Football fans still cling to this story as proof the administration will always favor basketball over football, but it turns out it’s not true. Bryant actually told the story — which was made up — as a joke at a luncheon in 1950 and was quoted in an AP article, but the reporter didn’t check with Bryant to see if it was true or mention that it was a joke in the piece, so an urban legend was born. Ironically, Rupp was given a Cadillac, but it wasn’t until 1955, and even then, it was from UK boosters and not the school itself.

Jon Scott has an excellent breakdown of this story on if you’d like to learn more. 

2. Billy Clyde went skinny dipping at the Merrick Inn pool

We could fill an entire book with Billy G. urban legends, but the most widely-circulated rumor about Billy’s nightlife escapades has to be the one about him skinny dipping in the Merrick Inn pool. Word around Lexington was Billy got so drunk one night that he and two women stripped down to nothing and jumped in the pool at the Merrick Inn, and were promptly thrown out.


Merrick Inn management says the story is false, and there are no pictures to prove it’s true. The Billy G. rumor mill was spinning at warp speed during his time in Lexington, so, like many Billy G. rumors, I think this is false, but there’s no way to know for certain.

3. The Josh Harrellson bathroom stall story

Again, so many Billy G. urban legends, so little time, but one that we actually verified on KSR was Gillispie forcing Josh Harrellson to sit in a bathroom stall during halftime of the UK/Vanderbilt game in 2009 while he addressed the rest of the team. After the game, Harrellson was told to ride back to Lexington in the equipment van rather than on the team bus with the rest of the players.

Verdict? TRUE

Josh confirmed the story to Jerry Tipton in 2009 and on KSR in 2013, saying that while the incident was humiliating, he shook it off pretty quickly. In fact, Harrellson has defended Gillispie a number of times since then, insisting that Gillispie’s harsh coaching style made him a tougher player.

While true, this story isn’t nearly as disturbing as other Billy G. urban legends, such as stealing his own player’s girlfriend, making Darius Miller play on an injured ankle, forcing Perry Stevenson to eat Pop Tarts to gain weight, etc. etc.

4. Rajon Rondo stole Patrick Sparks’ girlfriend

To put it nicely, Rondo had a reputation as a bit of a punk while at Kentucky, and the rumor that he stole Patrick Sparks’ girlfriend (and potentially got her pregnant) did not help. Many claim this is why Sparks and Rondo didn’t play well together and why the team didn’t have much chemistry in the 2005-2006 season.

Verdict? UNKNOWN

Who knows, but man, there sure are a lot of Google search results on the topic, including an entire page on a celebrity gossip website called “Lipstick Alley,” as well as at least four queries on Yahoo’s Answers forum.

(Not Rex Chapman)

5. Rex Chapman had an IROC Camaro with “I-Rex” on the side

Rex’s days at UK were before my time, but when I put out a Twitter call for the best UK sports urban legends, @Augustine8 brought this one up. Apparently, Rex had an IROC Camaro with “IREX” printed on the side of it during his time in Lexington.

Verdict? UNKNOWN

Rex sort of but not really addressed this during a Twitter Q&A a few years back, but how does a rumor like that start if it’s not true? Unless the school paid for it, it actually seems pretty cool and badass.

Regardless, we will file this with the other UK Basketball car rumors, including “Todd Tackett had a pewter colored Corvette.”


6. Melvin Turpin had pizza delivered to his dorm window

The story goes that Joe B. Hall and the UK coaching staff wanted “Dinner Bell Mel” to keep his weight under control, so they stationed someone outside his room to make sure he didn’t go on late night food runs; however, Mel got around this by having pizza delivered to his window at the Wildcat Lodge.

Verdict? TRUE

Kenny Walker confirmed this story on an episode of KSR with Ryan Lemond back in January, adding that because Melvin lived on the second floor, he would throw out a rope to pull the pizza up.

Any more to share? Maybe we’ll even make this a series…

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

14 Comments for True or False: 6 Classic UK Sports Urban Legends

  1. Tyler, you can see the Bear joking about their myth on The Adolph Rupp Show here (one commenter actually insists it’s true…lol):

  2. turdyshmurda
    10:46 pm August 2, 2016 Permalink

    Rumor has it that John Wall walked into a party at UK and got on top of table and asked everyone “who wants to suck John Walls d!$#!” And he walked into the back room with 2 girls.

    • Angelo
      2:21 am August 3, 2016 Permalink

      You don’t pay them to show up, you pay them to go away…

    • RealCatsFan
      6:45 am August 3, 2016 Permalink

      Rumor has it that one time at band camp “turdyshmurda” had the “dirty sanchez” performed on him by the tuba player.

  3. kt1374
    11:54 pm August 2, 2016 Permalink

    The Irex story is 100% true. I grew up in Owensboro and was going to Burns Middle School when Rex was at Apollo High. He dated my friends older sister. I saw that car everyday for a while before he took it to Lexington with him. I was at every high school game he played in his Junior and Senior season. Him and Greg Baughn were the best back court KY high scool ball ever saw!

    • shendo
      9:49 am August 3, 2016 Permalink

      can also confirm. i was at UK at the same time as Rex and saw the car many times.

      this i cannot confirm but it was the story i heard at the time. his parents had been saving for his college and when he was obviously going to get a scholarship they got him that car with the money instead. the story came from a friend of mine who went to highschool with Rex.

    • Tom Moyer
      5:51 pm August 3, 2016 Permalink

      I am surprised iRex didn’t have displayed on all panels “iPads” or “iPhones” or “iMacs”; but then he’d have been dunking a future (underestimated) $14K in our face.

  4. Angelo
    2:17 am August 3, 2016 Permalink

    Did Joe B. Hall reject Larry Bird?

    • RealCatsFan
      6:43 am August 3, 2016 Permalink

      Gee, that’s a tough one. Joe B was what, about 6’1? And Bird was about 6’9. Joe B would have had to be a great leaper to reject Larry Bird, but I guess it’s possible.


    • Louis Braille
      5:33 pm August 3, 2016 Permalink

      I didn’t see that one coming; yet I laughed heartily.

  5. Sentient Third Eye
    8:13 am August 3, 2016 Permalink

    There is some greater truth to the Bear Bryant story in that his feelings of being unappreciated were absolutely true. While the Caddy story was only a joke, it was a somewhat bitter joke designed to encapsulate reality in a simpler, if exaggerated form. Bryant told the joke to make a valid point that he was not being treated evenly with Rupp. Had someone at UK heeded the warning, history could have been very different.

  6. UKBlue1982
    10:50 am August 3, 2016 Permalink

    Took a “History of Sports” class my senior year, which consisted mostly of guest speakers (Ralph Beard, Mark Bradley and others). One week, assistant coach Leonard Hamilton spoke to the class. He told a story about Melvin Turpin and how he was prohibited from late night snacking. Seems Melvin loved him some McDonalds. At the time, McDonalds on Limestone was told by the basketball staff not to serve Turpin or his girlfriend. But, according to Coach Hamilton, Melvin got around that. roadblock He went to the McDonalds on Nicholasville Road, because Melvin reasoned “They don’t know me there’.

  7. Duff86
    4:36 pm August 3, 2016 Permalink

    What about the Billy G rumor that he was walking around with an unsigned contract? I never thought in a million years that would have been true.

    I always thought the Rupp/Bryant story was a Cadillac v. a watch? That’s how a lot of people tell it today. Glad we got some clarification on that.

  8. Kobayashi
    6:02 pm August 3, 2016 Permalink

    What kind of pizza the the big dipper prefer to demolish?