A Funny Little Obsession with Hatred: How One-Sided is the UK/UT Football Rivalry?

by Connor Parks (Multimedia Editor) and Elle Moses (Staff Writer)


They hate me ‘round these parts.

And the fact of the matter is, I saw none of it coming. Just a handful of months ago I sat wide-eyed in front of my laptop, tickets to the nearing UT/UK game on full display, wondering how little some half-decent seats with friends could cost. The prospect of a new life in Kentucky brought many exciting new opportunities, especially those entrenched in my secondary religion since birth- SEC football. There’s a reason – they say where I’m from -why the Sabbath is on a Sunday, and that’s to make way for college ball on Saturday. 

Growing up a Vols fan meant being taught to both love and hate, and my enemies were introduced to me before I even knew what a successful Tennessee looked like. We didn’t swear in the Parks household, but the times I heard those around me closest to it tended to be centered around 2 autumn evenings in particular- when the boys in orange suited up against Georgia, and, of course, Alabama: the greatest of all evils.

And yet, despite all my father’s good teaching to wish an offensive hell-storm upon UGA, Bama, and occasionally Florida (in the Urban Meyer days, at least), Kentucky was never a team to hate. At best, they provided us with a scrappy, late-season opponent to tousle it out with for a few quarters before a satisfying win; at worst, a throwaway game to be forgotten, left to the history books. As my love for the SEC grew with age, I even came to see UK as an almost benevolent ally in the league: a sidekick in our mutual enmity towards the big dogs, a harmless, friendly bump in the road as the season marched on. Surely, I thought, beginning my Centre journey, they feel the same way regarding us…?

Oh boy, was I in for a surprise.


“F—K Auburn,  LSU, and Tennessee too.” 

The sweet taunting chorus of Dixieland Delight blares over the speakers at Kroger Field; home of THE Kentucky Wildcats. Eighteen and a half years I have called Lexington my home, and the lights of Kroger Field have become an item of nostalgia and comfort. I know the University of Kentucky like the back of my hand. My high school graduation was even held in Rupp Arena. Being born into a long lineage of Wildcats meant I was brought up to bleed blue and trash any color that even merely resembled Tennessee orange. The Vols were considered a Kentucky fan’s Satan. There was never any real reason for this rivalry other than that we shared a border and the SEC. In my lifetime Kentucky has never been a powerhouse school for football so the yearly Tennessee game was usually always an assured loss. I don’t know if it is because of our god-awful track record or what but this rivalry game meant everything to the bluegrass state. The Tennessee hatred somehow comes in higher than the hatred for a real rival like Alabama… 

To my ultimate surprise, on move-in day I discovered that my own roommate is a UT fan. Raised in Tennessee but with an older sister at UK, this felt like a massive juxtaposition. As the UT/UK game arrived, this topic came up in our nightly conversations. Setting aside my love for my home team allowed me to see that Tennessee fans really don’t hate UK as much as we hate them. The consensus is that we are a basketball school and they are a football school. Therefore, we are evenly balanced. 


I arrived in the Bluegrass State expecting tensions to be low, or at least not to be unexpectedly derided on the regular as a UT fan. Instead, I found a state hellbent on fostering a rivalry…towards my own team…that I’d never even heard of. The palpability of this storied contest only grew over time, once vague and confusing, now imminent and hostile. Boarding a recent flight from Charlotte to Lexington, I felt the need to mask my Power T-emblazoned jacket as I walked through the aisle, observing hordes of travel-weary UK students on either side- just for my own good. A recent near mishap in the Walmart parking lot as I happened to be wearing the same coat made me realize the privilege I’ve had by never worrying about the color of my clothing. To the guy in the blue Corolla – yes, I should’ve been looking, but those gestures were….only half-necessary. 


Before my revelation of how unbalanced our hatred is, I would have accepted this treatment of any UT fan. Discussing with both Sarah (my roommate) and Connor, my resident UT fans, I would have upheld my hatred. While I still bleed blue and will continue to argue for my own pride, I understand that the argument is a lot simpler than I thought. Now, when watching next year’s rivalry matchup, I am hoping I will have a little less malice towards my neighbors down south. Even with this newfound forgiveness, I will still hold fast to the point that orange is a hideous color, and what kind of mascot is a volunteer?


So yes, I still love life here in Kentucky, and I’ve been taught a few things since my arrival. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s been a “humbling experience” by any means. Given the outcome of this year’s game, I think I can still consider UK a fun, gritty, non-hateable opponent as the college football regular season winds to a close. Perhaps it’s the fact that, throughout my childhood, Kentucky always served as a near guaranteed win. Some years, it was even my favorite bounceback game; a contest which, if only briefly, reassured me that hope remained for our season. Either way, no matter what the future holds for either team, let me serve as an ambassador of my devoted fanbase when I tell you that this rivalry is FAR more relevant to Kentucky than it is to Tennessee. In all honesty, and maybe this is just my own generation speaking, but I think we really couldn’t care much less. Besides, why can’t we just be friends when there’s real opponents to hate out there?


Oh Rocky Top… I agree with the notion that we should unite against real opponents like Alabama. Your Old Kentucky Home is honored to have you here with us…… even if you root for the wrong team. 

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