- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The Big Blue Nation celebrates again!
University of Kentucky basketball followers all over the world are celebrating this week after the Wildcats held off a furious comeback attempt by Kansas Monday night to claim the school’s eighth national title. The win capped a monumentally successful season that saw the Cats claim victory 38 times in 40 game appearances.
The Bluegrass State had plenty to cheer about when it came to the Final Four with the Cats and the Louisville Cardinals advancing that far in the Big Dance. The only scenario that could have been better is if the brackets had allowed for the two Kentucky schools to meet in the championship game. Nevertheless, Saturday’s repeat matchup of the Cats and the Cards attracted national attention and in the national spotlight the luster of this state’s love for the game of basketball shone brilliantly.
I make no secret that I have been a die-hard Wildcats fan since the days of Louie Dampier, Pat Riley, Mike Pratt, Dan Issel and Mike Casey back in the days when I was in high school. But I find myself pulling for a number of schools in this region when it comes to basketball—that is, as long as they are not playing Kentucky. I was glad to see Louisville and Indiana have success this year. Since I attended Purdue University for a period of time I also root for the Boilers anytime they play. In the years when UK gets bounced from the Big Dance I usually pull for whichever team or teams remain alive from Kentucky or Indiana—even Cincinnati’s Bearcats as I was a big fan of Oscar Robertson (The Big O) when he and Madison’s Larry Shingleton played there together in the late 1950s.
I was a big fan of legendary Coach Adolph Rupp for whom the Cats’ home arena is named. I realized how big Coach Rupp was in the Bluegrass State when I was working in radio back on December 10, 1977 at the old WVCM radio in Carrollton. I was in the middle of a shift of playing country music that evening when the alarm on the Associated Press teletype erupted with a breaking news bulletin.
The teletype normally reserved that kind of alarm for a catastrophe, like a presidential assassination, a tornado warning, a horrific national disaster. That night the AP’s Frankfort Bureau determined this news warranted prompt attention. I raced to the wire and went on the air immediately with the news that “The Baron”—the famous coach in the brown suit and at the time of his death the winningest coach in college basketball—had died.
The phones lit up and I don’t recall playing another record for the remainder of my shift. The rest of the night was spent fielding calls on the air of UK fans voicing their sorrow over his passing and their admiration for his storied career in Lexington.
Coach Rupp visited the old McCain Auditorium at Trimble County High School back in the early 1940s when he was scouting Jack Tingle, the TCHS standout who later played for Rupp and was All American at UK. Newspaper articles from The Trimble Democrat of those days indicate that Rupp made many local friends here.
I was among those who were blessed to see this year’s Wildcats in action at Rupp Arena and in that game against Georgia late in the season I knew they are the real deal.
Congratulations to Coach Calipari and all of the young men who contributed to the team’s success both in the public eye and on the practice court!