The top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats knocked off Kansas Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans to win the national championship game. It is the first title or Kentucky since 1998.
Many Kentucky legends have passed on since the ’98 national championship banner was raised in Rupp Arena. One legend comes to mind around this time of year, especially when the Wildcats are playing in the national championship game.
“Hello everybody, this is Cawood Ledford.”
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For 39 years, the play-by-play man at the University of Kentucky led off his broadcasts the same way, reintroducing himself to Wildcat fans who needed no introduction. The man was a staple of UK sports from 1953 to 1992. Coach Tubby Smith has said of him, “Cawood meant as much to fans of Kentucky football and basketball as anyone ever has.”
Each fan seems to have his or her own favorite quote of Ledford’s. “The Cats are runnin’”, he’d say in his distinctive, articulate style, meaning the Wildcats were pushing the offense. Stories of fans trying to pick up the broadcast signal far from Lexington are common. As a tribute to their beloved announcer, the school renamed the basketball court “Cawood’s Court” and painted a microphone on the floor.
Ledford’s style and professionalism was unmatched and he endeared himself to many sports fans in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and he remains among the most popular sports figures in the state.
Twenty years after the Christian Laettner shot, Kentucky is at the top of its game. Throughout the year, many believe the 2011-12 Kentucky Wildcat basketball team is the best team Kentucky has ever produced. Whether that is true or not, we do know this; there are not many guys that can replace the late Cawood.
As Kentucky fans watch the national championship game tomorrow night, think about all the history. Kentucky and Kansas have storied programs with history that is unmatched in college basketball. We can think of all the great teams, coaches and players than have contributed to these institutions, but there is one voice that is unparalleled when it comes to college basketball in Kentucky.
So for those who remember the voice, close your eyes after Wildcat senior Darius Miller drains a three-pointer and you can hear Cawood call it: “He shot that one from Paducah”
Read more at Southern GameDay where this story was originally published.