Louisvillians are often subjected to the idea that the fan allegiance of local residents is equally divided between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, even among those who should know better. Rick Pitino, for example, has even advanced the notion.

Not true.

Not even close, according to the most recent Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, which was conducted in 2005. The poll should have settled the issue once and for all. But UK fans and some media types, who missed front page story, tend to be research-challenged , or just count on the forgetfulness of the general public, persist in advancing the misconception.

That’s why the observer keeps a copy of the results, hopeful that the facts will make their way to the misinformed or blissfully ignorant. The poll indicated:

  • Fans of Louisville Cardinals basketball outnumbered Kentucky Wildcat fans by 53.7% to 33.3% in the Louisville area.
  • Fans of Louisville football weighed in at 61.3%, as compared to 20.8% for Kentucky football.

Courier-Journal columnist Eric Crawford, who was deeply involved in the poll and wrote the CJ story about the results, told Card Game:

“The project used one of the largest samples of any of the Bluegrass State polls, owing to the diversity of the population that follows sports. It was far larger a sample, for instance, than a gubernatorial or presidential poll we would have taken in the state. It also came at an opportune time: Both UK and U of L were doing exceptionally well in basketball. U of L was on its way to a Final Four, while UK was within an eyelash of getting there, too.”

The results reinforced a  Yankelovich study the Courier-Journal conducted a decade or so ago, showing Louisville with a similar lead in both sports.

Neither of polls took into consideration the bandwagon factor, people who switch favorites depending on how well one or the other is doing. Some will apparently jump from a loser to a winner in a heartbeat. Also, football teams going in different directions might affect the numbers slightly. And, as we’ve seen, a new hire in basketball will definitely raise the decibel levels.

But for the most part, fan loyalties tend to be deeply entrenched. Doubtful that the ratios have changed much. Or that the mistaken pronouncements about the fan ratios, intentional or unintentional, will fade away any time soon.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

9 thoughts on “Fan Loyalty Runs Deep In Louisville”
  1. This misconception is promulgated by UK fans despite the evidence to the contrary. For the most part, the broadcast media is lazy and never bothers to take advantage of the research. Thanks for the reminder and setting the record straight.

  2. Good point. And please don’t forget that there are a great many Louisville Cardinal fans and alumni in Southern Indiana.

  3. I never doubted this, but I will say that the sUcK fans think this is their town as much it is UofL’s. I’ll never understand it, but hey, it is what it is. sUcK fans could be getting a little bothered by the Big Red Machine moving away from the city into the state slowly, taking over once sacred Blue Blood stomping grounds. Who knows, all I know is there are way to many sUcK fans in the City as it is, I would love to see that number drop to 0. It is funny how many UK fans there are that have either graduated from that university or choose to live in this great city and bash it, because it is the City of the Cards!

  4. That poll didn’t surprise me but it’s good to get it back out there since the media led by WHAS, as UK’s new flagship, are too lazy to fool with research and remember the old days when UofL never mattered. What I would be interested in seeing is just how much the Cards have penetrated the rest of the Commonwealth. I suspect the results would shock the folks in Lexington, another tribute to the way Jurich has run the program. He has managed to get radio stations out in the state to join the Cards network and broadcast Cards games where that was unheard of maybe ten years ago. It makes a difference. Has anybody seen a poll of folks outside Louisville?

  5. Based on a couple of stopping points for the Cardinal Caravan each year, you can deduct that we have a good fan base in Northern Ky, Owensboro and Bardstown area.

    Whether we’ll ever make a significant dent in fan based loyalty and support in the traditional UK strongholds (Fayette Co., Eastern KY, Somerset, London, Ashland, Hopkinsville, Madisonville) remains to be seen.

    Certainly, a flop and fold or NCAA investigation concerning Calipari wouldn’t hurt in that aspect. He does, however seem to be attracting big time talent and the fans just love him…for now.

    As for football…most of us know what needs to happen there for the Cards to regain the statewide appeal they had when Howard, John L. and Bobby were here.

  6. We travel often to Western Kentucky and frequently see UofL shirts and caps, even license plates. Also, much UofL apparel and other items are available in stores. There are many students at Murray State University who are Louisville residents. I will never forget seeing a “Got Pitino” red teeshirt on a bicyclist in Murray, shortly after he became our coach! With Sirius satellite radio and Slingbox and/or internet coverage, fans throughout the state should be better able to FOLLOW THE CARDS.

  7. The only reason UK has as many fans here as it does is because they can’t get halfway decent jobs out in the state. They flock here in droves, and they never leave because they can’t survive in their home counties. Kind of sad really.

  8. I suspect that the numbers would be a bit higher for the UK fans if more of their fans and graduates could read. I’d say that a HUGE percentage of UK fans from out in the state have never even been on UK’s campus. WHAS radio has broken my heart in just about every aspect of their programming, from selling their soul to UK to having the most spittle-hate driven Michael Savage (even worse, who replaced some terrific local content).

  9. Although Cardinal fans lament the loss of primary rights on broadcasts to UK on WHAS radio, the advent of so many more electronic ways to follow one’s favorite sports team have, in my opinion…lessened the power of radio flagship status anymore. Internet, the remarkable advancements in cellular technology and hundreds of televison channels via cable or dish quite literally make it possible to watch any team at anytime you care to. Although radio, especially when it comes to coverage of the Lady Cards, is my preferred way to follow them on the road…I have options. Big East TV, All-Access thru the UofL web site and this site as well. Earlier this year, I listened to two different broadcasts of a away Lady Cards game while following it on Big East TV, and was able to replay it immediately after it finished.

    Imagine what it will be in ten years from now.

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