Up until a chilly day in Lexington in 1979, Kelly Dickey hadn’t paid much attention to sports or state rivalries. The sixth-grader simply needed a jacket for school, inheriting a hand-me-down from an older brother. That red windbreaker would wind up making a permanent connection for him with a certain athletic program.
“When I got to school, I noticed I was getting all these snarky comments about Louisville the city, Louisville the basketball team,” he recalls, noting the jacket had Louisville emblazoned on the back.
“They would ask me about ‘Loserville’ and ‘Blackbirds’. I thought to myself, ‘What’s going on, why all this hatred for Louisville?’ I became a UofL fan out of a civic pride for the city, having lived there a few years earlier.”
The youngster would start clipping UofL box scores from the newspaper and begin making spreadsheets in a spiral notebook shortly thereafter. He would be rewarded by his favorite team with the program’s first NCAA championship a few months later. “I was ecstatic,” he recalls. “The UK fans didn’t talk much after that.”
Not only would Kelly Dickey become a staunch UofL supporter but he would become one of the most knowledgeable people on the athletic program in the fan base. He is considered by many fans to be the last word, the go-to guy for factual information about Louisville football and basketball, from major events to the minuscule and the obscure.
Dickey is a frequent caller on local call-in radio talk shows, and he’s practically a legend as CardGame on the Cardinal Authority message boards, fielding and responding to numerous questions on a weekly basis. He will be feeding stats to Paul Rogers during the radio broadcast of four UofL football games this season, including the Syracuse, Virginia, Boston College and Houston games on the road, a volunteer paying his own way.
Although he seems omnipresent in Louisville, Dickey lives and works about 600 miles away in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He’s his own boss, owning a business that allows him to travel. He will, in fact, attend every UofL football game, home and away this season. When he’s not in the radio booth, he is helping Rocco Gasparro, the football sports information director, with stats. He will also be at numerous basketball games.
Kelly attended his first UofL basketball game in 1981, watching the Cards defeat Cincinnati in the Metro Conference tournament championship game, 42-31. He would attend his first UofL football game in 1987, the season opener in which Louisville overcame a 23-point deficit in the third quarter to defeat Tulane 42-40. As Dickey notes, it’s still the largest comeback in the school’s football history.
The UofL statistics guru is developing a comprehensive data base, with spreadsheets that will eventually include every UofL football and basketball game ever played. In football, he currently has every box score for football since 1951. “It’s an ever-growing data base,” he said. “The further back you go the less information is available.” He’s had to go the old microfilm route at the Library of Congress for some games.
He’s a native of Russellville, a small town located 25 miles southwest of Bowling Green. His family later moved to Louisville where he attended Lowe Elementary from the first through the fifth grade, then moved to Lexington for three years following the death of his father. For high school he returned to Russellville where he lived with his grandparents and played football for RHS for four seasons. He played nose guard on defense and guard on offense on his school’s 1A championship team, winning the state title in 1983 at old Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.
Kelly has always excelled in math and statistics, parlaying his “God-given talent and interest in math” into a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Math at Harvard University in 1991. While there he subscribed to both the Louisville Times and the Courier-Journal to follow UofL. “Expensive for a college student but it was the best way to keep up,” he said.
His gift also led to a successful career that includes owning his own company, Dickey Consulting, LLC, providing data management services. His wife Katy is also a management consultant. They have three children, including 19-year-old daughter Emily who is a sophomore at UofL. They also have two sons, Robert, 7, and Benjamin, 4.
He wasn’t able to afford going to the NCAA basketball championships in Indianapolis and Dallas in 1980 and 1986, respectively. But Kelly, who was living in Atlanta at the time, was on hand for the 2013 championship at the Georgia Dome, just a few miles from his house. “That was a personal milestone, having them win it that close to home,” he said.
Does he ever have trouble getting to sleep at night with all numbers running through his brain? “That’s been known to happen,” he confesses. “Sometimes I even dream about numbers.”
Editor’s note: You can follow Kelly Dickey on Twitter at @RealCardGame.