Why UK Basketball Fans Are Serious About the Cats


How I Became A Wildcat Fan

I was born in Evansville, Indiana, to two long time UK fans in a family of die hard fans. My grandfather had been to almost every game from Alumni Gymnasium, to Memorial Coliseum, to Rupp Arena as a season ticket holder and later a UK fellow.  My father used to tell me stories of listening to UK on the radio, and he would list off quote after quote from the great Adolph Rupp. We moved all around the country while I was growing up, but my parents always tried to catch UK games on TV and my grandmother would send us pertinent articles from local papers. In short, my family was and is die hard Blue.

Well, I've never been one to tow the company line so when I started watching basketball(at the time living in Carmel Indiana) I became an IU fan first and a UK fan second. This followed from the late 70's through the 80's. I believe I did it just so my father and I could root against each other. When it came time for me to go to college I really didn't even have Kentucky on the list. However, my grandmother pleaded for me to at least visit the school just for her sake. The whole family really wanted me to become the first family member to graduate a Wildcat. So I relented, because who can say no to their grandmother.

Well, first I visited Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, UVA and Virginia Tech. At that point I had my heart set on RIT because of their micro electrical engineering program. Now came the obligatory visit to UK. While I was on campus I got a feeling that can only be described as a calming. It honestly felt like after moving to 4 different states, and 5 cities, that I'd found my home. Everything just felt right when I was walking around campus. And the decision was made.

The summer before my freshman year I was still an IU fan first and a UK fan second. I know, it's sacrilegious but I was young and didn't know any better. One night the whole family, grandparents, parents and sibling were together and my grandfather just smiled (he couldn't stand that I was an IU fan) and told me that once I got to school and went to a game in Rupp that I would be converted. He said there was no way I could go to UK and not end up being a UK fan.

I'm fairly stubborn so I just laughed it off and forgot about. But my freshman year that all changed. The first game of the 1990-1991 season I was sitting in the student section and my whole world changed. It's like Rupp Area took a hold of me and hasn't let go since. The style of play, the passion of the players, the fans and the aura that is Rupp arena intoxicated me to the point of conversion in one night. I'd been to Rupp Arena a few times before, and I'd been to Eddie Sutton's basketball camp here, but there was something different about being in Rupp as a student, something I will never forget. And it was the second year of an amazing turn around that I was fortunate enough to witness the revival.

Yes, I'm a transplant. I wasn't born in Kentucky, and I adopted another team as a youth. However, over the next 4 years I didn't miss a home game. I traveled to Memphis, Charlotte, Indianapolis and New Orleans to watch the Cat's first hand in the NCAA tournament as much as money would allow. I've cried once as a fan, and it was the end of the 91-92 season. In the 16 year since my re-birth I've read countless books, watched videos and listened to albums about Coach Rupp. I've studied the way he revolutionized the game. I've tried to learn the history that I missed before I was a fan, and before I was even born. Yes, I'm a transplant but my love for UK makes up what I've missed in direct history watching the Cats.

I'm glad that I went to that first game when I did. Because in all honesty, I'm not sure that our program has that power right now. I'm not sure that it can sweep 18 year olds up and away like it did me. I know the program will regain that aura, but I do not believe it has it now.

Submitted by Tom Smither

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