The Paducah Sun
Sen. Mitch McConnell is known for his mastery of politics, admired by allies and feared by opponents. But what he did Tuesday was the piece de resistance.
With little fanfare, the Senate minority leader — with Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul, as co-conspirator — managed to get the two senators from North Carolina to join in declaring Kentucky “the college basketball capital of the world.”
The U.S. Senate agreed by unanimous consent to support the Kentucky senators’ resolution honoring the University of Kentucky Wildcats for winning their eighth national championship. But the preamble takes it a bit further: “Whereas Coach John Calipari and the University of Kentucky Wildcats have brought pride and honor to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which is rightly known as the college basketball capital of the world …”
The Tar Heel State’s senators, Richard Burr (a fellow Republican!) and Kay Hagan, are going to have some explaining to do when they go back home. The vote’s not likely to go down very well with alumni from Duke and North Carolina, not to mention NC State and Wake Forest.
The senators from Tennessee might also be in hot water. Thanks to Pat Summitt, who retired this week as the winningest D-I coach of all time, the Volunteer State could also stake a claim to college round-ball might. It may be women’s basketball, but it’s still college.
We don’t want to see the reaction senators get for their vote in Indiana or Michigan or even California, where a fellow named Wooden had a little success at UCLA a while back.
And what about Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts from the great state of Kansas? It was bad enough that Kentucky’s youngsters — five freshman and sophomore starters — so easily dispatched of the seasoned Jayhawks, with not a single underclassman in the starting lineup, in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament April 2. Now the KU (and KSU) faithful had to swallow their pride as their own senators acknowledged Kentucky’s basketball superiority. Oh, the indignity!
Only Kentucky stands in Kansas’ way of being college basketball’s supreme program. Kentucky may lead the nation with 2,090 wins in its storied history, but Kansas is a close second with 2,070. The Wildcats have made the Final Four 15 times, the Jayhawks 14.
Coach Calipari said the championship game was not David v. Goliath but Goliath v. Goliath. And Kansas Coach Bill Self called it a contest between “the bluest of the blue bloods.” Among those who once wore the Jayhawks jersey were Paul Pierce and Danny Manning. Oh, yeah, and Wilt Chamberlain.
But there can be only one greatest. And there can be only one college basketball capital.
And, by the way, you can find hoops in the commonwealth outside Lexington. The University of Kentucky is not the only top-drawer college program in the state, as the rivalries attest. Louisville, with two national titles of its own, made it to the Final Four this year, where the Cardinals gave UK all it could handle. And two other commonwealth teams, Murray State and Western Kentucky, won their respective conference championships and reached the NCAA Tournament, with Murray suffering only its second loss of the season in the round of 32.
Kentucky has produced its share of great leaders: Henry Clay, Zachary Taylor, Alben Barkley, Abraham Lincoln. But we don’t remember reading about any of our statesmen persuading the senators of other states to concede basketball inferiority. This resolution is quite a coup.
Roll Call’s Neda Semnani wrote that McConnell’s resolution “essentially declared the Bluegrass State the baller center of the universe. It states, and we may be paraphrasing here, Kentucky is the best, Kentucky is the greatest, we love Kentucky so much we’re going to marry it.” Well, yes.
All it really means is the rest of the country has finally admitted what we in the commonwealth have known all along.