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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Did UK Make the Wrong Call in the 1950’s?

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.

Article written by Bryan the Intern

22 Comments for BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Did UK Make the Wrong Call in the 1950’s?



  1. Jim
    9:11 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    What year was it Rupp got the death penalty?Didn’t some of his championships come with point shavers and paid players?Those championships would have been pull with todays standards.



    • J-Dub421
      9:55 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

      Jim you’re obviously a U of L troll, which means you need to get a life instead of posting here.

      None of Rupp’s titles would be vacated and we already served our time for the point shaving scandal back in the 40’s. Nice try though.

      A bunch of UCLA’s titles under Wooden would be vacated by today’s standards because UCLA was paying players during their big run under Wooden.



    • theSkinny81
      11:27 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

      This guy got on a UK site at 9 in the morning to troll. That’s dedication.



  2. JW
    9:12 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    No, I like dominating basketball in the SEC. There is no way that we would have the 48 SEC titles, the 29 SEC Tourney Titles. Give me the all time victories in basketball and the 8 NCAA titles as well.



  3. asdf
    9:18 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Who’s to say that Bryant could have won six championships at Kentucky? At Alabama, he had a built-in recruiting base that he wouldn’t have had here. He would have definitely kept Kentucky significant, but six titles? I doubt it.



  4. J. Reed
    9:21 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Im a huge football supporter but give me the basketball success all day long.



  5. Ben
    9:26 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    We may well have 5 or 6 Basketball Titles to go with 6 Football titles! I love basketball, but this would have been the best of both worlds. We will never really know, unless Stoops is the start of something great in football.



  6. theoledog
    9:51 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    BTI… I think you bring up an interesting premise. Football success will make you shake your money maker.



  7. ClutchCargo
    9:56 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    The best move would have been to retain Bear Bryant. I love my basketball Cats, but let’s be honest and admit it’s a lot more difficult and impressive to build a dominant football program in a football rich region than to build a dominant basketball program. I would absolutely trade the basketball success for a similarly excellent football program over the same time period. And there’s no reason you can’t have both, as long as you start with great football.



  8. Chicago
    10:12 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Football is slow and boring. I hate sports where offense and defense don’t transition seamlessly.



  9. Flozzella
    10:17 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Keep coach Rupp and send Bear on his way that is what I would do



  10. jimlowe7
    10:22 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Just a note on the “AS THE STORY GOES”…what you describe as the reason Bryant left UK was told by Bryant himself AS A JOKE but a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reporter at that banquet wrote the story WITHOUT mentioning it was a joke and everyone began to believe it after it was published. Bear had told that same “story” several time BEFORE it was reported and continued telling it for many years…it always got the biggest laugh of all his remarks! (Rupp actually DID receive a Cadillac the year AFTER Bryant had left, but it was for 25 YEARS AS COACH AT UK and was given by BOOSTERS, not the school itself.)



  11. Blue
    10:33 am June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Kentucky would have never been a “football” state because we have never had the high school talent necessary to build the type of program Bryant built at Alabama. Kentucky was already a basketball state before Rupp made UK basketball into a national power, and I would make the argument that it was BECAUSE Kentucky was a basketball state that Rupp was able to build the program so quickly and effectively. Not the other way around.

    So…In short, I think the University made the right call, because basketball was already king in Kentucky before Bear Bryant arrived, and he certainly wouldn’t have been able to change that, IMO.

  12. Yet another rephrasing of the tried and true “Would you rather have another bball natty or an SEC ‘ship in football” question. However, I understand this is the slowest time of year for sports fans. In fact, there are no sports right now for me unless the Reds were actually winning.



  13. clancyhat
    12:19 pm June 29, 2015 Permalink

    What ? Shoulda given them both Cadillacs.



  14. "Radio" Ron Chilton
    12:40 pm June 29, 2015 Permalink

    I am amazed that so many (young fans) believe the “Cadillac & Lighter” story is fact when it’s just a myth. As JimLowe7 said…it was a joke told my Coach Bryant at a banquet in Oklahoma and perpetuated by a journalist without checking. Both coaches got a hearty laugh (about that joke) years later just before their retirement.



  15. Jim 1
    2:07 pm June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Somewhere it was reported that Coach Bryant made the statement that the real reason he left UK was that he didn’t think that both basketball & football could be successful at the same school. When Rupp signed a new contract to coach basketball, Bryant decided to leave.

    It also stated that Bryant said later that it was a mistake that he regretted, because he came to believe that UK could have been a winner in both sports. I don’t know if the story is true or not but it sure beats the cadillac/lighter joke.



  16. KevinM
    2:37 pm June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Always like hearing UK history, and this might be the one story that defined UK.

    Great story about the Bear, who also struggled to beat Tennessee (1-7-2)….some things are hard to change.

    http://www.kentucky.com/2014/08/09/3373108/mark-story-a-living-witness-to.html



  17. BillinLA
    3:27 pm June 29, 2015 Permalink

    As is often said “BTI sucks”.



  18. Fenwaypk13
    3:39 pm June 29, 2015 Permalink

    I have been a season ticket holder in both basketball and football for more almost 40 years. During that time I have been to all of their football bowl games except one (BBVA) and all of the Final Fours since the 90’s.
    I have always said I would give up every Final Four appearance for one trip to the (then most important) Sugar Bowl. So for six national football titles, I’m all in. Basketball and baseball are just fill in sports until football starts again. But I love still love my roundball CATS.



  19. 8andcounting
    11:16 pm June 29, 2015 Permalink

    Not only was the “cadillac & the lighter” story false, but so was the reasoning for Bryant’s departure. Texas A&M offered Bryant something UK could not in the dual position of head football coach as well as AD. At the time, Rupp had tenure and could’ve had the AD job if he had wanted it, but he didn’t want it. So in deference to the long-established basketball coach, UK elected to leave the AD job as a separate position. I’ve done quite a bit of research on this subject and while I was in school at UK wrote a paper on it, here’s the link if there’s ever a slow news day and you want to post it.

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ejn8FNwOPFRpjoIBa5S5XOlnz4ezZUTsiWXlSdkog6Y/edit?usp=sharing



  20. Tampa satchel
    12:08 pm June 30, 2015 Permalink

    I would gladly trade the basketball success for an equal football success or even a little less basketball success for a lot more football success.