Sports in Louisville, Kentucky

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Sports in Louisville, Kentucky include amateur and professional sports in baseball, football, horse racing, horse shows, ice hockey, soccer and lacrosse with a history from the mid-19th century to the present day.


College basketball and football are very popular in Louisville, which prides itself on being one of the best college sports towns in America.

The city is home to the University of Louisville Cardinals, who compete in the NCAA's Division I and are a member of the American Athletic Conference, however will be moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014 . The U of L men's basketball team won the NCAA Division I basketball championship in 1980 and 1986 under head coach Denny Crum, and recently achieved the NCAA Final Four in 2005, 2012, and 2013 under head coach Rick Pitino, and winning the National Championship in 2013. The women's basketball team, under head coach Jeff Walz, reached the final of the NCAA women's tournament in 2009 and 2013, losing both times to Connecticut. The 2008–09 team featured 2009 WNBA Draft #1 pick Angel McCoughtry. Both basketball teams ended their tenure at Freedom Hall in 2010 and moved to the new KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville for the 2010–11 season.

The U of L football team, with coach Bobby Petrino, finished No. 7 in the nation for the 2006 season, 19th in the final BCS rankings of 2005 and 10th in 2004. After winning the Orange Bowl—the school's first Bowl Championship Series game—in January 2007, Petrino left the Cardinals to be the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Steve Kragthorpe was hired to replace Petrino less than two days later. Kragthorpe was fired after three years and replaced by University of Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. The UofL football team plays on campus at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The U of L baseball team advanced to the 2007 and 2013 College World Series in Omaha, where eight teams competed for the national championship. U of L won the Allstate Sugar Bowl in 2013, upsetting the Florida Gators. In 2012–13, U of L became the first school ever to appear in a BCS bowl game, the men's and women's Final Fours in basketball, and the College World Series in the same school year.

Bellarmine University, home of the Knights, fields 16 competitive NCAA Division II teams and competes in lacrosse at the Division I level (the only men's collegiate lacrosse program in the state).

Spalding University, home of the Golden Eagles, plays in NCAA Division III and in the Saint Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Horse racing and equestrian events[edit]

Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, the largest sports event in the state, as well as the Kentucky Oaks, which together cap the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. Churchill Downs has also hosted the renowned Breeders' Cup on eight occasions, most recently in 2011

Besides racing there is the World's Championship Horse show. This show is mostly for Saddlebred horses and is held in conjunction with the Kentucky State Fair. This is the premier event of the year for Saddle seat Pleasure and Equitation.

Professional sports[edit]

Louisville long ago hosted teams in the National Football League and Major League Baseball and fielded a strong franchise, the Kentucky Colonels, in the American Basketball Association before the ABA-NBA merger in June 1976. The Colonels won the penultimate ABA championship in 1975, defeating their archrival, the Indiana Pacers, in the 1975 ABA Finals.

Louisville is now home to five minor-league professional and semi-professional sports teams. The Louisville Bats are a baseball team playing in the International League as the Class AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The team plays at Louisville Slugger Field at the edge of the city's downtown.

The Louisville Bulls are a semi-pro football team in the Mid Continental Football League. The city also hosts two soccer teams. The Louisville Lightning play indoor soccer in the Professional Arena Soccer League, while the River City Rovers, founded in 2010, will play their inaugural season in the USL Premier Development League in 2011.

The Kentucky Colonels were the winningest team in the history of the American Basketball Association, but the Colonels were not included in the ABA-NBA merger in June 1976. A later team with the same name played in Louisville in the ABA 2000 league but moved to Murray, Kentucky in 2007 before folding.[1] Louisville and the corporate community had also attempted to pursue the Vancouver Grizzlies franchise before their ultimate move to Memphis in 2001,[2] as well as the Charlotte Hornets franchise, which ultimately moved to New Orleans in 2002.

Louisville is also the home of Valhalla Golf Club which hosted the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships, and hosted the 2008 Ryder Cup. It is also home to one of the top skateparks in the U.S., Louisville Extreme Park.

The city was home to two professional ice hockey teams in the East Coast Hockey League, from 1990 to 1994 the Louisville Icehawks, followed by the Louisville Riverfrogs from 1995 to 1998. The city also had an American Hockey League team from 1999 to 2001, the Louisville Panthers.

Louisville is also the home of Ohio Valley Wrestling, a professional wrestling promotion that served as World Wrestling Entertainment's developmental territory from 2000 until 2008.[3] and is now the official developmental territory for WWE's main rival, TNA Wrestling.[4] Many notable WWE performers trained in OVW, such as Jillian Hall, Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista, CM Punk, and The Spirit Squad (which included the wrestler now known as Dolph Ziggler).[5]


Current teams[edit]

Club Sport Began Play League Venue
Louisville Bats Baseball 2002 International League Louisville Slugger Field
River City Rovers Soccer 2011 PDL Centurion Soccer Fields
Kentucky Stickhorses Indoor lacrosse 2012 North American Lacrosse League Freedom Hall
Kentucky Xtreme Indoor football 2013 Continental Indoor Football League Freedom Hall
Derby City Dynamite Women's football 2013 Women's Football Alliance John Hardin High School (Elizabethtown)[6]
Louisville City FC Soccer 2015 USL Pro Louisville Slugger Field

Historical teams[edit]

Club Sport Played League Venue
Louisville Grays Baseball 1876–1878 National League Various
Louisville Eclipse Baseball 1882–1884 American Association Eclipse Park
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1884–1891 American Association Various
Louisville African Americans Baseball 1887 League of Colored Baseball Players Various
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1891–1899 National League Eclipse Park
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1901 Western Association Various
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1901–1962 American Association Eclipse Park and Parkway Field
Louisville Brecks Football 1921–1923 National Football League Various
Louisville Colonels Football 1926 National Football League Various
Louisville Bourbons Football 1931–1936 American Football League (1934)  
Louisville Tanks Football 1935–1939 Midwest Football League, Midwest Professional Football League, American Professional Football League Parkway Field
Louisville Colonels Basketball 1947–1948 Professional Basketball League of America unknown
Louisville Blades Ice hockey 1948–1950 International Hockey League
United States Hockey League
Louisville Gardens
Louisville Buckeyes Baseball 1949–1950 Negro League Various
Louisville Alumnites Basketball 1950–1951 National Professional Basketball League Unknown
Louisville Shooting Stars Ice hockey 1953–1954 International Hockey League Louisville Gardens
Louisville Rebels Ice hockey 1957–1960 International Hockey League Louisville Gardens
Freedom Hall
Louisville Raiders Football 1960–1962 United Football League Cardinal Stadium
Kentucky Colonels Basketball 1967–1976 American Basketball Association Convention Center (Louisville Gardens) and Freedom Hall
Louisville Colonels Baseball 1968–1972 International League Cardinal Stadium
Kentucky Bourbons Softball 1977–1982 American Professional Slow Pitch League, North American Softball League, United Professional Softball League Bishop David Stadium
Kentucky Trackers Football 1979–1980 American Football Association Cardinal Stadium
Louisville Redbirds Baseball 1982–1998 American Association Cardinal Stadium
Louisville Catbirds Basketball 1983–1985 Continental Basketball Association Louisville Gardens
Louisville Thunder Soccer 1984–1987 American Indoor Soccer Association Broadbent Arena
Louisville Bulls Football 1988-2011 Hearts of Ohio Football League, Mid-Continental Football League, Elite Mid-Continental Football League Various
Louisville Icehawks Ice hockey 1990–1995 East Coast Hockey League Broadbent Arena
Louisville Shooters Basketball 1991–1993 Global Basketball Association Louisville Gardens
Louisville Thoroughbreds Soccer 1994–1995 USISL / USISL Pro League
Louisville Riverfrogs Ice hockey 1995–1998 East Coast Hockey League Broadbent Arena
Louisville RiverBats Baseball 1998–2002 International League Louisville Slugger Field
Louisville Panthers Ice hockey 1999–2001 American Hockey League Freedom Hall
Louisville Fire Arena football 2001–2008 af2 Freedom Hall
Kentucky Colonels Basketball 2004–2006 American Basketball Association Louisville Gardens
Kentucky Retros Basketball 2007 American Basketball Association Freedom Hall
Louisville Lightning Indoor soccer 2009–2012 PASL-Pro Mockingbird Valley Soccer Club

High school[edit]

High school sports are also very popular in the city, especially football and basketball.


Louisville area high schools have been dominant in football in recent years. Trinity (1994, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), Male (1993, 1998, 2000) and St. Xavier (1992, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2009) high schools have won every football title in Kentucky's largest enrollment class (4A through 2006, 6A since 2007) except one (Nelson County 1996) since 1992 and have been 13 of the 15 finalists since 1997. Central has won three of the four 3A titles since Kentucky's move to a six-class system (2007, 2008, 2010). Manual also has a storied history, collecting 5 state titles (1925, 1938, 1948, 1959, 1966) and 2 national titles (1925 and 1938). Manual and Male are the oldest high schools in Louisville, and the 1st football game in the state was played between these two in 1893. Also, Trinity and St. Xavier have one of the fiercest rivalries in high school football. Every year, the Trinity-St. Xavier game draws an average of 35,000 fans to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Currently, St. Xavier leads this storied rivalry with 31 wins, 26 losses and 2 ties.

Annual competitions[edit]

Since 2007, Louisville has been host to the annual Ironman Louisville[7] triathlon in August, one of only eight Ironman events in North America. In 2009, 2352 participants finished the course.[8]

In early 2012, Louisville will be the first American city to ever host the UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships, and then in 2013, the city will host both the Masters, Juniors, U23, and Professionial Elite Women's and Men's UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, the biggest race of the fastest growing form of bicycle racing.[9] The event will be at the future permanent cyclocross course at Eva Bandman Park.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "American Basketball Association team looks to bring new energy to Murray". The Murray State News. 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  2. ^ "Report: KFC owner offers to buy Grizzlies". Usatoday.Com. 2001-03-21. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  3. ^ "WWE to cease affiliation with Ohio Valley Wrestling". World Wrestling Entertainment. February 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  4. ^ Marshall, Anne (December 7, 2011). "Learning the ropes". Louisville Eccentric Observer. Retrieved December 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Ohio Valley Wrestling Alumni". Ohio Valley Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "". 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  8. ^ "Ford IRONMAN Louisville Kentucky — August 30, 2009". Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  9. ^ "Louisville to host 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships". Cyclocross Magazine. January 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-29. 
  10. ^ "Louisville Moving Forward with Permanent Cyclocross Course". Cyclocross Magazine. December 16, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-29.