Cats or Cards? Kentucky faces Louisville five times in one week


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) gives the “L’s down” signal after scoring a touchdown during the UK vs. Louisville football game on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

In the world of college athletics there are few rivalries more passionate than those that occur in-state. Of those in-state rivalries, very few are as contentious as Kentucky against Louisville.

The teams are just around an hour-and-a-half apart in the two largest metro areas in the Bluegrass. Over the years, the teams have changed conferences, changed coaches and even added new varsity teams to their athletic departments, but one thing has remained a constant: with few exceptions, the schools always find a way to duke it out against one another. 

Both teams concluded their regular 2021 seasons in football against each other, this time in Louisville, with the Wildcats having the upper hand, routing the Cardinals 52-21. The game carried some extra spice after both teams were unable to play in the season prior due to being stuck in conference-only schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time the teams hadn’t squared off in football in over 25 years. 

With the pandemic still in effect, the duo’s mens basketball matchup was also postponed in December 2021 and appears unlikely to be rescheduled, due to positive COVID cases within the Louisville program. The pair did face off in womens basketball, with the Cardinals coming out on top, beating Kentucky 64-58 in the ESPN Jimmy V Classic.

One thing that makes the UK-UofL rivalry so special for fans is its transcendence across more than just the most popular college sports, and regardless of the competition, fanbases for both teams show out when they play their rival. 

By the end of this week, Kentucky and Louisville will have faced off five times across four different sports on three different days.

The action kicked off on Tuesday, Jan. 18, when UK womens golf traveled down to Naples, Florida, for the Battle of the Bluegrass. The contest ended in a 4-4 tie, allowing Louisville to retain the cup. The Cards started out with a lead when Mairead Martin defeated Marissa Wenzler on a 3-and-2. Kentucky would go on to take a 4-2 lead, but the Cardinals fought back winning the last two matchups for the tie.

The pair will take a short break ahead of Friday, which features two games. First, at 4 p.m., UK mens tennis hosts Louisville in the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. The Wildcats have gotten off to a strong 2-0 start, winning their doubleheader against Dayton. Louisville played its first game on Tuesday, also against Dayton, where they won 6-1 to start 1-0.

The rivalry continues well into the night with Kentucky hockey hosting UofL in the Lexington Ice Center for the first of a two game home-and-home series. Like all UK hockey home games, the puck is scheduled to drop at midnight.

Saturday sees the final two contests of the week, with mens swimming and diving first taking the trip to Louisville. The event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. from the Ralph Wright Natatorium. It is one of the last three meets Kentucky will take part in prior to the SEC Championships.

Finally, the hockey team travels to Louisville for the Cardinals’ home game in the series. The puck is set to drop at 6:30 p.m. After what will undoubtedly be a physical and passionate showdown in Lexington the day prior, traveling Wildcat and Cardinal fans alike will be in for a barn burner.

While some may assume that once basketball enters conference play and the football season ends, the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry goes into hibernation, this is not the case. The feud is alive and well midway through January, and the schools are set to add five chapters over the coming days.