Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, a graduate of both Louisville and Kentucky, has never shied away from making his interest in college sports known. Most recently, lobbying to get the University of Louisville invited into the Big 12 Conference (unsuccessfully). On March 28th, Senator McConnell took the Senate floor and, like a politician, did not pick a side. Instead, he praised his home state for the fact that the two prominent programs in the state will be meeting in the Final Four on Saturday night.
McConnell even went out of his way to rib the senators from North Carolina, telling them that the rivalry in Kentucky is the best in the country. Though he did not say so explicitly, given his rather public beef with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, I imagine McConnell is enjoying seeing his Louisville team succeed while West Virginia is at home as well.
His full statement, from Politico, is below.
Something very special in the world of sports is happening in my home State of Kentucky.
Kentucky is well known as the home to the Kentucky Derby, often called the greatest two minutes in sports.
But this coming Saturday, March 31, we will witness one of the greatest moments in Kentucky’s sports history.
Two of the most storied and winningest programs in all of college basketball, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, will meet this Saturday in the 2012 NCAA Tournament Final Four.
The two teams will face off in a semifinals game in New Orleans. And the winner of that game will contest for the national championship the following Monday night.
In my home State of Kentucky, the rivalry between fans of UofL and UK is a passionate one. From birth, it seems, Kentuckians are raised to root for one of two teams—you either wear red for the Louisville Cardinals, or blue for the Kentucky Wildcats.
The two teams boast two legendary coaches, Rick Pitino and John Calipari. The teams have met every year since 1983. And they’ve met in the NCAA Tournament four times, most recently in the Mideast Regionals in 1984. Between them, they have 24 visits to the Final Four. But never have these two teams faced each other in the Final Four, with the stakes so high.
If the excitement and frenzy and turbulence that’s been stirred up in Kentucky this week could be harnessed, we could solve our energy crisis. Basketball fans from Kentucky have been waiting their whole lives for this game.
And on Saturday, we will prove that these two schools have the best rivalry in all of college basketball—and that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the best college basketball State in the Nation.
Let me say that again, so my friends in North Carolina can hear it: UofL and UK have the best rivalry in all of college basketball, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the best college basketball State in the Nation.
But only one team can win on Saturday night.
I am actually an alumnus of both schools. I attended the University of Louisville as an undergraduate and went to law school at the University of Kentucky.
So I don’t know who will win Saturday’s game. But I do know this: whoever the winner is, they will go on to defeat either Kansas or Ohio State and bring a national championship back home to Kentucky where it belongs.
So count me in with my fellow Kentuckians and college basketball fans everywhere as we tune in this Saturday to see history in the making. It’s going to be very exciting to watch.