The University of Kentucky first played football in 1881. Some 132 years later, they begin their latest season with a meeting against Western Kentucky University in Nashville.
The Hilltoppers have a storied history dating back to the 1880’s, but they haven’t always been known as the Hilltoppers. Heck, they haven’t always been in Bowling Green or even known as Western Kentucky and as we look back at their connection to Kentucky we’ll find a few alumi that have followed in their alma-mater’s path of naming issues.
- Western Kentucky University was originally named the “Glasgow Normal School” and was located in Glasgow, Kentucky. After moving to Bowling Green in 1885, where they became known as the Southern Normal School and Business College, then the Western Kentucky State Normal School, then Western Kentucky State College, then Western Kentucky University.
- The school’s nickname is “The Hilltoppers” in tribute to the campus sitting atop a hill standing 232 feet above the Barren River.
- Big Red is the Western Kentucky mascot name – a red, furry blob created by a Western student, Ralph Carey, in 1979. Big Red head has a large hill for a head, in honor of the school nickname Hilltoppers.
- One famous Hilltopper was Duncan Hines – Hines, was a traveling salesman around 1955 and wrote books and newspaper columns telling people where to eat on long road trips.
- Duncan Hines eventually baked bread and sold it through a bakery in New York before selling his name to people for various products, including a cake mix that was manufactured in Omaha, Nebraska.
- Western Kentucky football player, Rod Smart, was cut from the NFL only to appear in the upstart football league, XFL. He was a league star and eventually ended up signing with the Philadelphia Eagles before being released and winding up in North Carolina with the Panthers. The XFL allowed football jerseys to display nicknames versus just last names. Smart requested his say “They Hate Me”, but went with “He Hate Me” as the prior was too long and would not fit.
- Smart is was the second to last player to rush for over 150 yards in consecutive games as a Hilltopper. The last one was Bobby Rainey, who last year put up 184 yards again Kentucky after putting up 155 against Nebraska the weekend prior in 2010.
There you have it… 7 steps to go from Hilltoppers to He Hate Me to why to hate WKU, at least for this game.