Since Friday at 4pm, it doesn’t matter who you are a fan of, the scandal or alleged scandal that has struck at the University of Louisville has been the major focus of the sports fans of this state, the media, and this website. The story is almost too insane to believe. A basketball staff member used money from some unknown place to pay for escorts/sex workers/strippers for the recruits and players of that university and a book was being released about said incidents. It’s the kind of story that even in today’s world of absurd reality TV that seemed too extreme to be true. As UK fans, we had a difficult decision. On the one hand, our main rival is being scarred with an incredibly embarrassing scandal. That’s great and funny, right? But on the other hand the scandal is so disgusting and sad on all accounts, with child prostitution and other crimes, that it’s hard to laugh at this. I’ve seen fans land on both sides of that issue. Some are absolutely shaming themselves with how much joy they are taking. I take joy out of the struggle of the UL fan themselves, but some are getting joy about the story. That’s sad. But that’s life and the world we live in. Every fanbase in the country would have the same reaction if their rival had this happen to them as well.
But here is an angle I haven’t heard many mention. This scandal and what it likely will mean for UL and their recruiting abilities plus Pitino’s potential departure is NOT GOOD for Kentucky. Doesn’t it mean UL will certainly decline in prestige? Of course. Does it mean that UK will take an even greater grip on the rivalry? Of course it does. But having a weakened rival does not mean the rivalry is better. It means it is worse! I will never root for Louisville to win games or titles in any way. That’s not how a rivalry works. But at the same time, this rivalry between the 2 schools is the greatest in college basketball IMO because the 2 programs are so great. What annoys UL fans more than anything is despite the fact they are also on one of the greater runs in their school’s history, it gets dwarfed by the almost unbelievable run UK is currently on. The absolute definition of little brother.
Do you remember the last 2 years of the Kragthorpe era? Do you remember the first couple years of the Rich Brooks era? Do you remember the end of the Denny Crum era or the Billy Gillispie era? When one program is so significantly worse than the other that damages the rivalry itself. The wins and losses will always go in cycles but the competitiveness of the rivalry is what makes it great. I don’t want my chief rival to stink and just crush them every single year. You get no joy out of that because the opposing fans don’t care. Duke and North Carolina became an elite basketball rivalry not just because they both are in the same state, but because they both were in the same state AND WERE GREAT PROGRAMS.
There is no avoiding it now. Louisville is going to be severely damaged for some time from this. And they should be. I don’t think they should sniff the NCAA Tournament for a couple years. Pitino likely needs to go. The team was already looking at a mediocre season before this happened and next year didn’t look much better. Now with this, who knows? But what I do know is when the likely conclusion comes and UL declines, that doesn’t make me happy in terms of the rivalry itself. I will miss my passionate rival down the road. They are getting what they deserve but we are getting a bad deal as well.