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Kentucky Basketball: Why College Hoops Fans Hate the Kentucky Wildcats

Dan BodnerCorrespondent ISeptember 7, 2011

Kentucky Basketball: Why College Hoops Fans Hate the Kentucky Wildcats

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    Every story needs an antagonist. Every sport needs a villain.

    There are some teams that sports fans just love to hate. Schools such as Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut and Kentucky all fit the bill when it comes to college basketball teams that fans simply can't help but root against.

    Kentucky, in particular, has established itself over the years as not only one of the nation's most storied programs, but also one of its most repugnant.

    Today, we attempt to identify the Top 5 reasons why college hoops fans hate the Kentucky Wildcats. 

Winning Tradition

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    The more you win, the more enemies you will accrue. It's a simple fact of life.

    Losers draw sympathy and repulsion, but not hatred. Only those at the top of the mountain draw the ire of those trying to usurp them.

    With this in mind, winning 2,052 games and seven national titles seems like a sure-fire formula for drumming up antagonism among the opposition.

    No other team in college basketball has won as many games as Kentucky, and no one comes close to the program's .760 winning percentage. And only UCLA can claim ownership of more national titles (11) than Kentucky's seven.

    Winning isn't the sole reason that Kentucky receives hatred from college hoops fans, but it forms the foundation. Hatred requires relevancy and Kentucky's winning tradition helps to keep the program relevant in the eyes of the media and hoops fans.

Living in the Past

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    The majority of Kentucky's notoriety comes from its rich tradition—dating all the way back to Adolph Rupp's first year as a head coach in 1930. Rupp spent 41 years as Kentucky's head coach, compiling 876 wins and four NCAA titles.

    Kentucky fans often brag about the team's success, especially those under the guidance of Rupp, but usually neglect to mention that the program has won just three titles in the last 53 years and none since 1998.

    Truth be told, Kentucky's basketball program had been pretty pedestrian from 1998 up until John Calipari's arrival two years ago. It's no mystery, then, why Kentucky fans love to reminisce. 

    The history of college basketball should be remembered and appreciated, but it can be a little tiresome to hear fans brag about things that occurred before the ushering in of the modern era of basketball.

    Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on your perspective—John Calipari has brought the program back into yearly title contention, as well as the national spotlight. This means that Kentucky fans now have more than just history to fall back on when arguing their rightful place in college basketball. 

John Calipari

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    Whether you love him or hate him, it's hard to deny that John Calipari is one of the most polarizing figures in sports.

    His smooth personality and recruiting prowess make him a demigod among Kentucky fans, but a figure of contempt among rivals. The constant cloud of controversy that hovers over his head only serves to reinforce his sometimes villainous image.

    Like Kentucky as a program, most of the ire for Calipari can be traced back to his success. He has consistently proven himself to be the nation's top recruiter, and has assembled the nation's top recruiting class in each of his first three years at Kentucky.

    Calipari's success on the recruiting trail causes his detractors to continually critique both his results and his methods. Some question his accomplishments by reasoning that he must have cheated, pointing to violations that occurred at his previous schools—while others choose to downplay his success by pointing out his inability to win a national championship, despite some highly talented squads.

    These facts are not unknown to Calipari, who seems to not only embrace these criticisms, but also feed off of them. With this in mind, I wouldn't expect the tension between Calipari and college hoops fans to alleviate anytime soon.

The One-and-Dones

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    John Calipari's arrival at Kentucky not only meant it would return as a national title contender, but that it would also break new ground as an NBA draft-pick factory.

    Kentucky has churned out more NBA draft picks over the past three years than any program in the nation—the majority of which have been one-and-done players.

    The advent of the one-and-done rule in college basketball has upset many basketball purists who assert that the rule blatantly turns the notion of a student athlete into a farce. Regardless of the validity of this notion, Kentucky has recently become the poster boy of the one-and-done phenomenon with the likes of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Brandon Knight.

    Kentucky is then an easy target for hoops fans who liken one-and-dones to college basketball mercenaries or rental players.

    With Calipari still at the reigns, this image isn't likely to change anytime soon unless the NBA decides to change its draft eligibility guidelines in the next CBA. 

The Fans

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    Fan bases are often the catalysts of any sort of animosity towards a particular team. Kentucky is no exception in this regard.

    Because of its tradition and prevalence in the Bluegrass State, Kentucky boasts one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. Kentucky basketball is more akin to a religion than an interest or hobby.

    Basketball is admittedly the state's biggest export, and residents are bred and raised with it always in mind. For this reason, Kentucky fans appear to be of a different breed.

    Because of their ardor for their team, Kentucky fans can often come off as rude, arrogant or just plain crazy. This is no unique phenomenon in sports.

    Kentucky fans are often criticized for being either way too knowledgeable or not knowledgeable enough about the game of basketball. Yet, while knowledge levels may very, all Kentucky fans share a certain intense passion for their home-state team. This passion often comes into conflict with other fans who are equally as enthusiastic about their own teams.

    In fact, most of the reasons already listed are only amplified by fans' eccentricity. Without Kentucky's outlandish fan base, the Wildcats would not be nearly as successful—or nearly as loathed. 

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