Let me start off this post by saying that I cannot wait until UofL starts competing in the ACC. With the recently announced grant of rights agreement, I believe that the ACC will provide a stable conference home for the Cardinals and will help us improve our university both from an athletic and academic standpoint. As a University of Louisville alumnus and fan, I couldn't be more excited or proud of my alma mater.
With that said, there have been some aspects of the conference realignment drama that I have found to be less than appealing. One such issue has been the destruction of many of the great rivalries that make college sport unique. In my opinion, nothing can beat the excitement and passion of a rivalry game or the joy of seeing your team hoisting the rivalry trophy above their heads in victory. Out of all of the regular season wins our football team notched last season, none felt better to me than the 32-14 win over UK in the season opener and the 34-31 OT thriller over UC in the cold and rain. There is something special about beating your rival and bringing home the Keg of Nails after a four year absence and keeping the Governor's Cup were two of the highlights of the season in my opinion. That is why a recent articles by Bill Koch in the Cincinnati Enquirer and Andrea Adelson of ESPN.com about the future of the Keg of Nail game have me a bit disappointed.
According to the Adelson article, the future of their Keg of Nails series is on hold and the chances that Louisville plays both Kentucky and Cincinnati annually are slim. When asked about renewing the series at the recent ACC spring meetings in Florid, Jurich had this to say:
"If we’re going to keep one [rivalry game], we’re going to keep Kentucky. That’s something that’s so important in our state, and the commonwealth of Kentucky relies on that game, so it’s something I want to make sure we keep. We might be able to play both in the same year once in a while, because Cincinnati has been a great rivalry, too."
I agree with Jurich that the UK-UofL game is an important asset to the state and should be the game that is kept if only one can be renewed. However, it will be disappointing to me as a fan if UC is not a regular opponent on the schedule. The rivalry between UC and UofL dates back to 1929 and is marked by one of the most unique and manly trophies in college football. With 52 meetings between the schools, UC has played UofL more times in football than any other opponent (Memphis at 42 games and WKU at 31 games are UofL's 2nd and 3rd most played opponents respectively). It is a rivalry that has endured through multiple conferences and has produced some memorable games (e.g. the end zone pass that was batted down in 2006, the infamous 70-7 beat down in 2004, etc). On top of that, the game is an easy trip for our fans to make, it gives the program more exposure in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky area, and it puts a quality opponent on the schedule that fans actually care about playing (as opposed to Marshal, FIU, etc).
It is my hope that perhaps this game could rotate with the annual Kentucky game to ensure that our fans are treated to a home rivalry game almost season. For example, UC and UofL could one another OOC in the years when UofL does not play Notre Dame. Under that scenario, you'd get something that looks like this.
2014: UK, @Notre Dame, @FIU, @Marshall***
2015: @UK, UC, TBD, TBD
2016: UK, @UC, TBD, TBD
2017:@UK, Notre Dame, TBD, TBD
2018: UK, @UC, TBD, TBD
2019: @UK, UC, TBD, TBD
***This game is probably going to be pushed back a year or bought out and replaced with a home game.