Sen. Mitch McConnell has turned down an invitation from the President to attend an occasion Friday at the White House recognizing the University of Kentucky as the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament.
The reason should be apparent. Nobody in Louisville wants to be in Washington on Kentucky Derby weekend. But Barack Obama obviously doesn’t have a clue about the importance of Derby weekend on the local social calendar.
In any case, McConnell is more a fan of the University of Louisville, which lost to Kentucky in the NCAA semifinals, than of the University of Kentucky, a source close to McConnell told The Hill. But McConnell himself declined to express a preference between the two before they met in the tournament, noting he attended both of them — Louisville as an undergraduate, and Kentucky as a law student.
Mitch McConnell, perhaps the most powerful University of Louisville basketball fan, introduced a resolution in the United States Senate Wednesday, extolling the NCAA basketball matchup with U of L and Kentucky in the Final Four.
It had to be painful for the minority leader to feign neutrality. Everybody knows he’s a Louisville fan. He was president of student government at UofL. But he has another degree from the UK law school.
McConnell is a big Louisville football fan, too, never missing a home game, often attending games on the road. He also has gotten involved in conference realignment and expansion, advocating UofL’s inclusion in the Big 12 Conference.
The Senator turned down an opportunity to have the UK School of Agriculture named after him a few years ago. But one of the most prestigious facets of UofL, the McConnell Center for Leadership Studies, bears his name, attracting influential world leaders on a regular basis.
Here’s his public statement:
“Never have these two teams faced each other in the Final Four with the stakes so high. If the excitement and frenzy and turbulence that’s been stirred up in Kentucky this week could be harnessed we could solve our energy crisis. Basketball fans from Kentucky have been waiting their whole lives for this game.
“So my friends in North Carolina can hear it, U of L and UK have the best rivalry in all of college basketball and the commonwealth of Kentucky is the best college basketball state in the nation.”
But when they turned off the microphone, we know that Senator McConnell was probably pleading:
West Virginia never made sense. Not going first, anyway.
Not only to University of Louisville fans but to a number of administrators in the Big 12 Conference. And whatever it was, a leak by a West Virginia administrator or a Big 12 official to the New York Times, there appears to be resistance to WVU being announced as the newest conference member.
Some reports indicate that U of L had an invitation but was waiting to see if all the Big 12 schools signed the deal regarding television rights. That Tom Jurich wanted assurances that UofL wouldn’t be entering another conference that was about to implode.
Speculation is that the Big 12 was calling UofL’s hand with the leak about West Virginia. In hindsight, one should have seen it coming with reports last weekend that WVU was overtaking Louisville. Trying to get Jurich off the fence, force him to swallow his concerns. He appeared to be holding firm, forcing the conference to play the WVU card.
But then Louisville may have played its ultimate trump card in the person of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, twice named Card Game’s Fan of the Week in the past, who attends every U of L game at home and many on the road.
[stextbox id=”custom”] It’s not every day that a Louisville football fan is recognized as the chief architect of the deal preventing the United States from going into default on its national debt. Give credit where credit is due to Senator Mitch McConnell for crafting the deal.