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The Kentucky Wildcat / Louisville Cardinal rivalry is the top rivalry in college athletics


After witnessing all of the bad blood the past week between the Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans and the Louisville Cardinal fans, I have come to the realization that the Kentucky/Louisville rivalry is bar none, the best rivalry in all of college sports.  Now, I realize that I am preaching to the choir of the Big Blue Nation when I write this, but it appears that the national media has not caught on to this.

When I was doing research for this article, I saw a few sites that said Notre Dame vs USC was the best rivalry ever.  Seriously?  Yes, there is tradition and lots of national titles between the school, but lately the games have been yawners.  Yes, Notre Dame ended some frustration and beat an 8-5 USC team last year, but the recent 38-0 and 38-3 poundings the Trojans administered to the Fighting Irish sucked the life out of this rivalry.

And for basketball, most people point at North Carolina and Duke as the best basketball rivalry.  Sure the teams are ultra-competitive and their fanbases despise each other, but as for real fireworks?  Roy Williams and Coach K are as cordial as an afternoon tea party when it comes down to the type of rivalries that I love.  I am talking pure hate for the other team and an “I would rather cut my tongue out rather than say anything nice about those guys mentality”.  Speaking of Notre Dame, they used to have this type of rivalry with the Miami Hurricanes, but alas, both schools have sunk into mere normalcy the past few years.  Without any more hesitation, I want to present my top five college athletic rivalries.  Surprisingly, only one basketball rivalry was in my list of the top five.


The above picture says it all.  John Calipari is tan, smiling, and relaxed.  Rick Pitino is pale, scowling, and very much looking like Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings”.  This picture sums up better than anything the icy relationship between the two coaches.  Plus we have the fact that Rick Pitino won a national title with the Wildcats, failed in the NBA, and having the choice of any school in the country, chose Kentucky’s bitter rival 70 miles down the road to resume his career in.

If you listen to Rick Pitino, he is the one that got John Calipari the job at UMass and Pitino even paid $5000 of Calipari’s salary out of his pocket.  It’s a good story, but recently, it has come out that this story may not be true.  These guys were bitter rivals in the CUSA and it got white hot when Calipari moved to the Bluegrass.  The first game between the two teams since Calipari’s arrival had the look and feel of a street fight and was immortalized by DeMarcus Cousins throwing those famous elbows.

John Calipari lives to tweak Pitino and Pitino replies by refusing to acknowledge anything Calipari related.  The latest chapter in this feud came this week when John Calipari organized exhibition games for his Dominican National Team against a sauad for former Wildcats in the NBA.  Cardinal fans were annoyed when Calipari scheduled a game on the Cardinal’s home court and then became enraged when Calipari got former Cardinal coach Denny Crum to participate.

The fact that Cardinal fans were planning to attend and boo Crum, the only coach in their history to have won a national title, shows their disdain for him choosing to participate in what was perceived as a UK event.  The disdain of Louisville by Kentucky fans is Legendary.  This year, both teams are picked in the Top 10.  I dare you to find a better rivalry.


The Alabama Crimson Tide really only had less than one season to hold their 2009 National Title over their instate rival’s heads before Auburn won the National Title in 2010.  The fact that Auburn came back from a 24-0 deficit to win last year’s Iron Bowl makes that Auburn title that much more bitter for Alabama fans.  In all reality, this is probably the best college rivalry of all time and deserves the number two spot, but I thought the recent drama between Texas A&M and Texas brought their hate to a whole new level.

If you want history, this rivalry has it all.  It has names like Joe Namath and Bo Jackson having superstar games to lead their teams to victory.  Bear Bryant defeated Auburn to notch his 315th career win, which made him the all time winningest coach.  The sign of any good rivalry is when the state legislature has to intercede to make the teams play each other.  This series started in 1893, but in 1947, the Alabama state legislature had to push to make the teams play each other regular.  That point became moot when the teams both became part of the SEC, but the hate has not lessened.


This rivalry is so big that in 2006, it became the first college football rivalry to be honored on a Wheaties box.  If that impressive factoid does not woe you, just realize that this is one of the oldest rivalries in the country.  A lot of the hate stems from the Texas A&M side, and the fact that even though they were the first University, that dreaded “other school” had the nerve to take the moniker “The University of Texas”.  Most true Aggies still refer to Texas as “Texas University” or “t.u” but never the University of Texas.

A lot of the hate has to do with the political weight the Longhorns carry in the state and to Texas fans, the Aggies have the biggest case of “little brother” envy.  It does appear that whatever Texas wants, Texas gets and Texas gets the most money out of the Big 12  (and basically whatever they want).  It is so bad that Texas A&M desperately wants to leave the conference to get away from Texas and the recently announced “Longhorn Network” was the last straw.

Texas knows they have it
good in the Big 12 and that if A&M leaves, the appeal of the SEC could put a dent in their recruiting stronghold.  Plus, the additional SEC money would put A&M on a more even level.  Texas at first balked to pull the rivalry if the Aggies left the Big 12, but Rick Perry and the state legislature made sure that this rivalry would continue, regardless of conference affiliation.  And that is how they hand football and the state schools in Texas.  In the state legislature.  Even though Texas has had a healthy upper hand in this rivalry, the outward hate of the Aggies, who will do anything to get out of Texas’s shadow, make it a classic rivalry. 


Don’t worry.  Mike Gundy has not calmed down recently as he is being sued by a contractor.  Gundy had hired the contractor to work on his home and fired him for wearing an Oklahoma shirt to work.  And true to “I’m a man, I’m 40” lore, Gundy had these comments to the contractor:

According to the suit, Gundy approached Loveland and said, “How dare you come into my house and offend my wife?” The suit states that when Loveland asked what Gundy was referring to, the coach replied by saying, “That (expletive deleted) shirt you have on.”


At one time, this was the football game of the year and the Gators/Seminoles were at a level of white hot hate.  Then Bobby Bowden hung around Tallahasee about a decade too long and this rivalry turned one sided as the Gators ripped off six straight wins.  FSU got a breath of fresh air with Jimbo Fisher at the helm and now Will Muschamp will quickly learn that the late November matchup is a must win game.

This game has as much history as any rivalry in the nation and unlike a lot of the top rivalries, this series is dead even at 18-18-1 over the last 37 games.  The year of the tie, there was a rematch in the Sugar Bowl in 2005.  Two years later, these two teams battled for the national title and even though that game was in 1997, the Gator’s 52-20 Sugar Bowl win is still an open wound for Nole fans. Another memorable (and Ironic) game came in 2004 when Ron Zook’s 7-4 Gators did what Steve Spurrier could not do — win in Tallahasee.  The fact that FSU was ranked #8 in the country and this game was being renamed “Bobby Bowden Field” just made it sweeter.

Like most of the other games on this list, this game needed state action to get it to happen.  The Florida legislature actually voted down a bill that required the teams to play each other.  Florida Governor  LeRoy Collins personally got involved with the school Presidents and they finally agreed to compete on the field.  I personally am hoping that Muschamp/Fisher can bring the fire back to the game that Steve Spurrier did.  He was one of the best protagonists towards the Nole fans.

As with any list, things have to be left out.  I know some people will want to see Ohio State vs Michigan or other rivalries like that, but personally, I don’t think there is anything better than a good in state rivalry.  And these are the best of the best.

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