Sunday, June 22, 2008

We hate Duke

»  Cross-posted at The Cardinal Lawyer  «

Christian LaettnerIn Danzig U.S.A. and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we take college sports very seriously. Partisans of the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky spare nothing in passionately supporting their teams — and in vigorously opposing their teams' rivals. If there is one opponent that unites the Cardinal Nation with Wildcat Country, it is Duke University's Blue Devils.

True to the traditional athletic preferences of Kentucky and North Carolina — two states where the cultivation of tobacco surely gives rise to their unusual predilection, unknown elsewhere in the South, for basketball over football — Louisville and UK partisans have historically trained their hatred at Duke's basketball program. But a recent decision by Judge Phillip J. Shepherd of the Franklin County (Ky.) Circuit Court gives people across the Bluegrass State reason to despise Duke football as well:
Maybe you can win for losingDuke iconA Franklin [County], Ky., Circuit Court judge sided with a devilishly clever argument and ruled in favor of Duke University yesterday in a breach of contract lawsuit brought forth by the University of Louisville.

Judge Phillip J. Shepherd agreed with Duke’s lawyers — the football team is so bad that any replacement would do.

U of L sued Duke for $450,000 — or a series with another Atlantic Coast Conference opponent — after the Blue Devils backed out of a four-game football contract with three dates remaining.

The contract called for a penalty of $150,000 per game if a date with a “team of similar stature” could not be arranged.

Duke footballDuke’s lawyers argued the Blue Devils, which have a record of 6-45 over the past five seasons, were so bad that any team would be a suitable replacement.

Judge Shepherd agreed in his summary:

“At oral argument, Duke (with a candor perhaps more attributable to good legal strategy than to institutional modesty) persuasively asserted that this is a threshold that could not be any lower. Duke’s argument on this point cannot be reasonably disputed by Louisville.”

Kentucky courts interpret contract terms “according to their plain and ordinary meaning” barring any ambiguity. According to Shepherd, finding a suitable replacement literally meant any NCAA Division I team would suffice – including those in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA.)

After the teams played their initial game in 2002, a 40-3 U of L victory in Durham, N.C., Duke opted out of the remaining games in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Thanks in part to Duke’s cancellation, the Cards scrambled to find a 12th game for the upcoming season before signing an agreement with Memphis in February. U of L will play at Memphis on Oct. 10 and the Tigers are scheduled to play at U of L in 2010.

“We’re disappointed with the ruling,” said U of L spokesman Kenny Klein. “We will take our time to review the decision and explore our future options.”

[Other sources: (1) An earlier article in the Louisville Courier-Journal, (2), and (3) Red Lion Reports.]
Strictly as a football fan, albeit one who is a Louisville Cardinals partisan, I respectfully disagree with Judge Shepherd. There is no adequate substitute for Duke football, a patsy nonpareil in college football. There simply is no other (1) Division I-A team (2) that plays such appallingly bad football (3) so consistently and persistently (4) all while maintaining its membership in a Bowl Championship Series conference.

Memphis footballAs pleased as I am to witness a revival of the Louisville-Memphis rivalry, an old Metro Conference basketball grudge match moved to the gridiron, what I really want is a series of virtually guaranteed wins against the worst major college football team. And that team, despite its university's immense wealth and its city's sports tradition (think of the Bull Durham and the 1942 Rose Bowl), is the Duke Blue Devils.

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