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Kentucky proud

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Let's remember why universities really exist

By Stephen Lega

Fans of the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville have had a lot to celebrate in recent years.
Kentucky won its eighth NCAA men’s basketball title two years ago, and this year's team reached the tournament finals. In the last few years, Louisville reached a Final Four and won its third championship in basketball, sent a baseball team to the College World Series, won the Sugar Bowl in football and sent its women's basketball team to its second championship game appearance.
But really, that stuff is meaningless.
This may sound like blasphemy to some of you, but sports are not the reason that U of L, UK or any college exists.
Recently, I was listening to "The Joe B and Denny Show" as I was driving to an assignment. Former Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall said once upon a time there was an unwritten rule that no coach would be paid more than the university president. Is it possible for us to go back to that way of working?
Last year, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a base salary of $525,000 for President Eli Capilouto with the potential for a $50,000 performance bonus.
In contrast, UK Basketball Coach John Calipari's base salary from UK is $400,000 with a $1 million retention bonus if he remains until July 31 and a $3.4 million allowance for media/endorsements, according to the Cat's Pause. That doesn't include the $150,000 bonus he received when Kentucky returned to the Final Four.
Now, I'm not trying to pick on UK. Rick Pitino's salary is around $4.9 million (not including bonuses), while WDRB reported that U of L President James Ramsey’s base salary is $600,000.
Louisville held a pep rally when its team won the championship last year, while UK celebrated its national runner-up this season.
Meanwhile, University of Louisville researchers were recently profiled on CNN for their work with electrical stimulation, which may help people who have been affected by paralysis to move their limbs again. This is just the most recent medical breakthrough for U of L (artificial hearts and hand transplants also come to mind).
The University of Kentucky houses a transplant center, which has helped people all over Kentucky (including here in Marion County) live longer.
I could list more things that U of L, UK and the state's other universities contribute to our lives, but when we talk about being fans of a school, generally we just mean their athletic programs.
The truth is we should all be fans of our public universities because of their primary missions — educating our population and providing a place where research that enhances our lives takes place.
Now, I'm certainly not saying that Louisville fans need to go buy UK shirts or that Kentucky fans should start a C-A-R-D-S cheer. Just know that whoever you support on the basketball court or the football field, all of our universities make our Commonwealth a better place to live.
And if you'll forgive me, that is much more of a reason to be "Kentucky proud" than anything any team accomplishes.