It was a century ago when a young Adolph Rupp – a farm boy from Halstead, Kan. – decided to attend and play basketball for his home-state school, coached by the future “Father of Basketball Coaching”.
From that point forward, the landscape of college basketball would be changed forever.
Adolph Rupp arrived at the University of Kansas in the fall of 1919 under new head coach Forrest “Phog” Allen and assistant coach James Naismith. Allen originally coached at KU from 1907-09 immediately following his playing career there but took a hiatus after he graduated in 1907 to study osteopathic medicine – something he’d later use to treat and heal injured athletes at KU.
Rupp was no star player but he did help contribute to KU winning the 1922 and 1923 Helms titles (the de facto national championship at the time).
Taking what he learned from two of basketball’s patriarchs, Phog Allen and James Naismith, Adolph Rupp accepts the head coaching position at the University of Kentucky. The “Baron of the Bluegrass” would go on to coach the Wildcats for 41 seasons.
Having already won two NCAA championships in 1948 and 1949, Kentucky hosted Allen’s Kansas Jayhawks on Dec. 16, 1950 in Lexington, Kentucky. The Jayhawks roster featured the likes of Clyde Lovellette, Charlie Hoag, and future Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith.
However, Kentucky crushed the Jayhawks 68-39 and would go on to win the NCAA championship that year defeating KU’s in-state rival Kansas State.
The game would be Allen’s first and only matchup against his former pupil.
Rupp would finish his career a perfect 4-0 against his alma mater, including two wins inside Allen Fieldhouse, named after his former coach. He also won three NCAA titles before his former coach finally won his in 1952.
Phog Allen is forced to retire (due to age) after coaching at his alma mater for 37 seasons. He led the Jayhawks to three national championships – including one NCAA title in three NCAA Championship appearances.
He retired as college basketball’s all-time winningest coach with a record of 746-264 and a 590-219 record at KU.
Like Allen, Rupp was forced to retire at the age of 70. However, he would go on to surpass his mentor’s hardwood success in almost every major category. He finished his time at Kentucky with six Final Four appearances and four national championships.
He also broke Allen’s win total by finishing his coaching career with a record of 876-190, good for fifth-most all time. His .822 winning percentage remains the second-highest among all men’s college coaches.
Rupp gets a building named after him as well as Rupp Arena became the new home for Kentucky basketball.
Adolph Rupp passed away on Dec. 10, 1977 at the age of 77. That same night, No. 1 ranked Kentucky would go on to beat No. 19 Kansas inside Allen Fieldhouse by a final score of 73-66. The game had been dubbed as “Adolph Rupp Night”.
That loss dropped Kansas to 1-10 against the Wildcats all time.
Kentucky essentially dominated KU for three and a half decades from 1950-1984. But Kansas got their revenge in a big way.
A game that will live in Kansas lore and Kentucky infamy came on Dec. 9, 1989 in Lawrence. It was Roy Williams’ second year as head coach at Kansas and the No. 2 ranked Jayhawks were facing an unranked Kentucky team coached by Rick Pitino.
Pitino was in his first year coaching at Kentucky and the Wildcats had a young, inexperienced roster. It showed.
Kansas put up 80 points in the first half alone (a KU record). KU also set a record for field goals made (52) and assists (36) in route to an absolute BEATDOWN of Kentucky 150-95. The 150 points were also a KU record and the loss remains the worst in program history for Kentucky.
To apparently make a point to his team, Pitino had his team press the entire game. KU broke the press repeatedly and that’s what led to the route – which continued even after KU had put in their third string players.
Pitino still continued to press though, and according to former KU player Mark Randall, Williams shouted to Pitino during the second half asking what he wanted him to do and Pitino responded with an expletive.
So Williams did what any competitive coach would have done and threw his starters back in. Pitino continued to press and the Jayhawks continued to score.
It was a glorious day for Jayhawk fans and many saw that game as a solace for the years of losses at the hands of the Wildcats.
If you’re needing a pick-me-up, you can watch the game in its entirety on YouTube.
After that game, Kansas started to make the series much more competitive. KU was 3-3 against Kentucky in their next six matchups, including an 88-76 win over the Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2007.
KU – the No. 1 seed in the West region that year – would go on to finish 33-5, losing to No. 2 seed UCLA near their backyard in San Jose, Calif.
KU didn’t see Kentucky again until Nov. 15, 2011 in the first edition of the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Wildcats, featuring a star-studded team headlined by the uni-browed phenom Anthony Davis, beat KU 76-65.
The two teams would face later that year in the National Championship. Kentucky was led by Anthony Davis and five other future NBA draft picks, while KU overachieved thanks to the leadership and tenacity of senior PG Tyshawn Taylor and First Team All-American PF Thomas Robinson.
KU fought until the end, but Kentucky’s size and talent were too much for the Jayhawks to handle. They beat KU by a score of 67-59 – giving John Calipari his elusive first national title and Kentucky’s eighth in school history.
ESPN’s College GameDay will be in town as No. 9 Kansas takes on No. 8 Kentucky in Lexington, Ky at 5 p.m. CT on ESPN this Saturday.
Kentucky leads the all-time series vs. Kansas 22-9 but KU has won the last three meetings. Kansas has never beaten Kentucky in more than three consecutive games, but they hope to end that on Saturday.
Kentucky has 2280 wins in program history – which is No. 1 all time in NCAA Division I. Kansas has the second most victories with 2264.
The two blue bloods will battle for bragging rights as Bill Self looks to avoid his 100th loss at Kansas against the school his has been connected to for 100 years. We’ll see if another historic chapter gets added to these two storied programs.
*Statistics courtesy of sports-reference.com