Commonwealth Journal

Columns

December 11, 2013

Should UK Fans Continue to Bleed Blue If the Players Care Only for the Green?

Two score and change ago, a college team from Cincinnati with players no one had heard of dominated college basketball for three years in a row, from 1961 through 1963. Oscar Robertson had graduated by then and had moved on to the NBA, but nonetheless, in ’61 and ’62, the Bearcats took the championship game from mighty Ohio State University, whose roster included future NBA stars Bob Siegfried, Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek.
In ‘63, the UC Bearcats lost their bid for a third straight national title when, in the final game, Loyola University overcame a 15-point deficit to win in overtime. UC fans of a certain age still talk about those years and remember how closely they followed their no-name team in triumph and in loss.
If anything, I would say UK Wildcat fans are even more loyal to Big Blue and the university certainly has a storied winning tradition that any school would be proud of. Grateful alumni write big checks and the basketball ticket sales, income from TV broadcasts and merchandise sales help support other sports programs on campus. UK’s winning record also guarantees that any team hosting a visiting UK squad will fill its stands.
Evidence of UK fan loyalty is not hard to spot here locally, as many of us own and proudly wear or display Wildcat sweatshirts, UK logo hats, license plates, mugs, jerseys and so on. On chilly nights, I put on a pair of UK logo “lounging britches” before turning in. People from tykes to grandparents adorn themselves in Wildcat Blue at the mall, the theater, the auto parts store and the grocery store. Fans all over pass their loyalty along to their kids and grandkids. 
Recently, I have begun to notice a trend that could threaten the loyalty of the UK fan base. Just how serious this threat may be has yet to be determined, and no easy solutions to the problem present themselves. I am talking about the tendency of many UK players to spend only one year at the university, after which they make themselves eligible for the NBA draft.

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