A Decade by Decade Review

The history of UK basketball is that which makes grown men remain "little boys" forever. The love and concern for such a love is built on decades of awesome team records, and a list of individual greats that we can only hope to match in the decades to come. Since 1930/31, the first Rupp season, UK has remained at or the near the forefront of college basketball---here are some wonderful memories by decade to ponder, cherish, and LOVE;

1931-1939--The RUPP beginning, nothing his equal in UK lore to this day.

  • A 9 season record of 147-31(82.6%wins).
  • All Americans, Carey Spicer, Forest Sale, Ellis Johnson, John Demoisey, Leroy Edwards, Dave Lawrence, Bernie Opper. These players and others were the bedrock on which Rupp built the "Roman Empire" of college basketball.
  • 82.6% wins

1940-1949--The Golden AGE shines brightly, and Rupp makes UK the GREATEST.

  • The 10 season record was 239-42(85.1%wins).
  • The aura of UK grows exponentially, with 2 NCAA titles, an Olympic title(half the team), the "Fabulous Five", and recognition all over the globe.
  • A ton of All Americans including Lee Huber, Bob Brannum, Jack Parkinson, Jack Tingle and a triumvirate of Fabulous Five players, UK legends forever--Beard, Groza and Jones.
  • UK was the focus of college basketball--and Rupp was the grandmaster.
  • 85.1% wins

1950-1959--A nine season era never to be matched again.

  • The only undefeated season(53/54--25-0), greatness unparalleled.
  • The 9 season record was an awesome 224-33(87.2% wins).
  • Two more NCAA titles.
  • A home winning streak of 129 consecutive games. 
  • The opening of the finest on campus arena anywhere(Memorial Coliseum),
  • Scores of All americans including some of the most reknowned names in UK lore--Bill Spivey, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey, Bob Burrow, Vernon Hatton, John Cox.
  • UK was synonymous with GREAT!!!
  • 4/9 seasons UK scored at more than 82ppg.
  • 87.2% wins

1960-1969--10 years of heartbreak, individual greatness, that "accident", and the end of the golden era.

  • The 10 season record showed wear and tear at 197-69(74.1%wins).
  • What a decade of disappointments, and yet awesome memories.
  • Again, UK had its share of amazing talent and recognized All Americans, led by Charles Cotton Nash, and the "horse" Dan Issel, with Pat Riley, Louie Dampier, --this foursome created memories never to be forgotten.
  • And the decade full of agonies and full of tears to this day.
  • 7/10 seasons scoring at more than 82ppg
  • 74.1% wins.

1970-1979-- the changing of the guard

  • ,Rupp was forced to retire after the 71/72 season due to age restriction.
  • Joe Hall took the reigns and won that elusive NCAA title, the end to 2 decades of frustration.
  • This was the decade of the dawn of power basketball, high scoring
  • The 10 year record was 223-69(76.4% wins).
  • Scoring was awesome, the 75 runner-up team scored at 92.2ppg, and were only the 3rd best for the decade.
  • The 1970 team scored at 96.8ppg(all time UK record) without Mike Casey(the car wreck loss).
  • In 1978, 2 decades of UK fan frustration ended, in St Louis, with the NCAA title returned to the Lexington Campus by an awesome juggernaut of talent, and Joe Hall.
  • Again this decade, UK was blessed with tons of All American talent, led by Dan Issel, Kevin Grevey, Jack Givens, Rick Robey, Kyle Macy. 76.4% wins, 8/10 seasons UK scored at more than 83ppg.
  • 76.4% wins.

1980-1989-- The demise of college basketball offense, forcing the shot clock and easy 3-point shot.

  • A decade of disgrace and one half of pathetic shooting forever etched in the deep recesses of every UK fan who witnessed it.
  • No NCAA titles,
  • Scoring at an all time low since 1950.
  • The 10 year record was the worst since Rupp arrived some 5 decades earlier, at 231-95(70.9% wins).
  • The 3/32((9.4%) 2nd half shooting in the 1984 final four would seem to be the obvious low point for this decade--but it was far from it.
  • There was the terrible NCAA round of 8 loss to the hated rival Louisville in 1983, after decades of ignoring the little brother down the road.
    • There was the claims of illicit payments to players,
    • There was the eventual Emory pouch full of money for Chris Mills,
    • There was the first losing season forever---and
    • There was the low point of NCAA sanctions, loss of TV and NCAA probations---
  • What a travesty of 10 years of UK basketball---yet, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
    • In the flicker of a New York second, a driven, egotistical, pro coach came to the rescue.
      • With a no quarter given,
      • An attitude of take no prisoners, and
      • A UK style made famous by the BARON--
    • Rick Pitino was about to turn the tragedy of the 80s, into the 2nd "Golden Age" of UK basketball.
  • With all the turmoil and amid all the consternation, some wonderful talent achieved All American status, including three big men--Sam Bowie, Melvin Turpin and Kenny Walker.
  • As bad as this 10 season period was for UK fans, another decade with a final four(1984) appearance made it 5 consecutive.
  • UK failed to average 80ppg for a single season in a decade since 1952. Arguably, this was the worst decade of UK basketball since Rupp arrived in 1931.
    70.9% wins

1990-1999--GREATNESS was again synonymous with UK basketball.

  • The 10 season record of 282-63(81.7% wins).
  • After a "get um in shape" season at 14-14, Pitino had UK off and running like the OLD days.
    • Foes were overwhelmed, margins were awesome, heights seldom if ever attained by UK teams were achieved--and
    • UK was back to 4 final fours,
    • 3 title games, and
    • 2 NCAA titles in this decade.
    • 9/10 seasons UK scored at 80ppg or more.
  • A decade comparable to the best of Rupp was attaind.
    • UK fans were boastful again,
    • The scourge of college basketball wore UK "Blue and White"---
    • UK was again king of the mountain.
  • As usual, UK was blessed with talent galore, and All Americans again graced the cover of UK yearbooks, with Jamal Mashburn, Tony Delk and Ron Mercer so recognized. UK took advantage of the clock and shot like no other team--and fans flocked as never before to behold the unforgetables, the unbeatables, and the Bambinos---the golden age had returned. Two UK coaches won NCAA titles, a first for UK, as Tubby Smith and Pitino brought home the title this decade.
  • 9/10 seasons at 80ppg or more.
  • 81.7% wins.

2000-2006(3 seasons remain)--Retreat from greatness

  • 7 season record of 179-58(75.5% wins).
  • UK achieved a perfect SEC regular season(16-0), and SEC tournament record(3-0) in 2003,a feat never before accomplished by any UK team.
  • Through 7 seasons, with 3 remaining --this is the team high point to date.
  • Since the 40s, UK has reached a NCAA final four in every decade---3 seasons remain to keep this illustrious UK record intact.
  • As usual, UK has had some individual outstanding players, and the All American list has grown for Uk with Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans.
  • 0/7 seasons at 80ppg
  • 75.5% wins

UK has generated a lifetime of memories, both from individual greats, and outstanding teams. Here are a few "decade" by decade comparisons since Rupp arrived in 1931.

1931-1939--82.6% wins--7 AA
1940-1949--85.1% wins--7 AA---3 FF---2 NCAA titles
1950-1959--87.2% wins--6 AA---2 FF---2 NCAA titles
1960-1969--74.1% wins--4 AA---1 FF
1970-1979--76.4% wins--5 AA---2 FF---1 NCAA title
1980-1989--70.9% wins--3 AA---1 FF
1990-1999--81.7% wins--3 AA---4 FF---2 NCAA titles
2000-2006--75.5% wins--2 AA

And, yes, decades are really 31-40, etc--but since Rupp began in 31--it was easier to keep the 10 year periods per the 30s, 40s, etc---editor's choice.

Hope all enjoy, and many wonderful memories are revived.

Contributed by John R. Barry

The Tradition Lives On
A Must See For Any Wildcat Fan


Go Back


Copyright 2006
SugarHill Communications of Kentucky
All Rights Reserved