One year ago, the KU men’s basketball team was preparing to face its first opponent in the NCAA Tournament, and we profiled the Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky in our first Know the foe blog post. This year, the No. 2 seed Jayhawks (24-9) match up with the other half of the Bluegrass state as this year’s edition of Know the foe features No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky Colonels (24-9), champions of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Riding a 7-game winning streak into the postseason, the Colonels are known to beat their opponents from the 3-point line, so it’s only fitting that we share 3 points to know about KU’s first tournament foe:
The Campus Beautiful
Of course, KU is known for its beautiful campus, and alumni fondly recall classes atop “the Hill.” At Eastern Kentucky, the main campus in Richmond is affectionately referred to as “The Campus Beautiful,” and it too is a point of pride for students and alumni. The nickname is a nod to the school’s commitment to green space and landscaping, according to the university’s website at eku.edu. Enrolling 16,000 students and offering more than 150 degree programs, Eastern Kentucky University began as a teachers college in 1906 before it officially became a university in 1966. Today, EKU operates campuses in Corbin, Danville, Hazard, Landcaster, Manchester and Somerset in addition to the main campus in Richmond.
What’s in a name
Bad blood between the blue blood basketball programs in Kansas and Kentucky may seem to focus on the flagship universities’ titles and all-time victories. That may be true, but if you really want to annoy fans of the stories programs, just get their names mixed up. Perhaps nothing is more aggravating to a KU fan than being mistakenly labeled as a “UK” fan (the opposite, of course, would be a compliment). Fortunately, the regional universities in the state have resolved this dilemma by choosing the appropriate acronyms for their edu’s: Western and Eastern Kentucky go by WKU and EKU, respectively. They take their flattery a step further with logos that feature a descending K, similar to the Trajan KU logo. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
We thought we’d seen it all with Western Kentucky’s “Big Red” mascot, but hold your horses. Eastern Kentucky’s Colonel has been around since 1963, but before that time, the “Maroons” competed without a mascot (other than a color) until the 1920’s when students voted for a leopard. Efforts to obtain an actual leopard fell through, so the Maroons remained until the Colonel came along. The mascot logo might make some confuse EKU with KFC, but the Colonel’s not going anywhere. Last fall, he survived criticism from a retired faculty member calling for EKU to update the university’s mascot to a more modern symbol, arguing that the Colonel was out-dated and representative of a by-gone era. Newly installed EKU President Michael Benson quickly threw his support behind the Colonel, who remains a popular figure among EKU fans.
To celebrate the snowy conditions in Richmond (classes were delayed today due to snow), the Colonel displayed his best moves while showing off The Campus Beautiful below. Enjoy!
– David Johnston
Do you “know the foe?” Share your insights about KU opponents by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.