Out of nowhere comes the news that the Louisville vs. Kentucky football game will be the last game of the season, starting in 2014.
A few of us, including this observer, wouldn’t have been too disappointed had the series ended, fully expecting scheduling conflicts of the expanding Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences to render the rivalry unworkable. With teams playing eight or nine conference games, the programs needed more scheduling flexibility and more creampuffs.
Apparently the game is so profitable for UofL and UK that administrators will take unusual steps to see it continue. The ACC and SEC are on board, too, strongly supporting the change.
“The storied rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky is an important part of the tradition and history of both institutions and we appreciate being able to showcase that game on the final weekend of the season along with the other inter-conference rivalries between the ACC and SEC,” said said ACC Commissioner John Swofford.
Obviously, for UK the emotions engendered from competing against UofL have eclipsed those associated with Tennessee, which has been the curtain closing game for those schools for over 70 seasons. The folks in Lexington would never have agreed to it otherwise. Somewhat ironic considering UK refused to play UofL for decades.
Tom Jurich, vice president for athletics, is apparently not that enthusiastic about the move.
“I have been a huge proponent that the game should be played as the first game every year,” he said. “I’m disappointed that it will not be our opening game in the future, but most importantly, we will continue to play the game. We’ll support the move at the request of both conferences and we are very excited about our future in the ACC.”
Elevating the rivalry to a season-ending game is understandably disappointing for those Louisville fans who have fought for growth in the UofL football program for decades, finally seeing UofL get an invitation to a major conference, hoping they didn’t need UK any more, wanting to play more big-name programs, finally achieving the goal. There are, without doubt, wins over teams that would be more satisfying than beating UK.
Only to see the UofL-UK rivalry game become what will be the season climax, a decisive game with enormous implications for bowl games well into the future.