There was a break in the space-time continuum that is the UofL-UK rivalry—and, arguably, it was a lot more interesting than anything Cats or Cards fans have cooked up in a long time.
Bellarmine University’s men’s basketball team, the NCAA Division II champions Knights, were up against some stiff competition going into their final game against second-seeded Northern Kentucky University last night. The first-ranked Knights were treading on thin ice, as the top seed hosts the first three rounds of NCAA Division II regional play—and so a win by the Norse could have shifted NKU’s odds of hosting—plus, NKU and Bellarmine are hot rivals in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. And so, the battle moved from the court to the Twitterverse, with @nkuedu  going head to head against @bellarmineU .
About a week ago, a NKU student took to Twitter to rile up “Bellarmine Hate Week,” complete with a corresponding hashtag—naturally labeled #BellarmineHateWeek. Explains Jason Cissell, Bellarmine’s director of media relations and social networking, “Our students and staff were surprised to see that it had risen to that level, but embraced the hashtag.” A week of what Cissell describes as “lively” discussions between the two teams followed, with the tag trending in Louisville and Cincinnati. “Every five minutes there was a tweet from their fans or our fans using the hashtag,” Cissell says. (Sample tweets: “I guess NKU gave up winning for Lent” from a Knights supporter; “When they say Bellarmine is number 2, they weren't talking about a ranking” from a Norse fan.)
To add fuel to the fire, some members of the championship Knights shot a video  that aired on The Scotty Davenport Show, hosted by the team’s coach. Eric Crawford of the Courier-Journal was on hand, and wrote a column in Thursday’s paper . The online flame war culminated in a bold move by Cissell, who manages Bellarmine’s Twitter account.
“As the discussion carried on during the week, the main NKU Twitter account and main Bellarmine account were talking to each other and came up with this bet,” Cissell says. The wager? The loser of last night’s game would have to tweet the winner’s fight song. “For us, it was a nervy bet because it was a road game and we knew there’d be a huge rowdy turnout,” he says, “and we were very relieved and grateful that we were not the ones tweeting.” Of course, this got its own hashtag: #theBet.
In the spirit of Bellarmine’s latter-day patron Thomas Merton, Bellarmine started #BellarmineLoveDay. “We’re not going to try a whole week,” Cissell says. “We’re tweeting some things we love about the people and the place, and encouraging people connected to the place to tweet about their love for Bellarmine.”
The tweeters will meet at least once again face-to-face March 2-4 at the GLVC tournament in Springfield, Ill. Beyond that, the NCAA Midwest Regionals will be held in three rounds and are slated for March 10-13 and will be hosted by the top Midwestern seed—currently Bellarmine—with the Elite Eight scheduled for March 21-24 at Northern Kentucky University.
Love Bellarmine? Give out a shout today at #BellarmineLoveDay. As Cissell might say, it’s the Merton-y thing to do.