Calling Kentucky a 'non-traditional' program, John Calipari took to his own website over the weekend to address the criticism that came in the wake of the long-standing Kentucky-Indiana basketball rivalry coming to an end late last week. Calipari said the Wildcats will follow their own model as the gold standard of college basketball.
Calipari's opus directed at Kentucky fans appeared on CoachCal.com late Sunday night with the coach saying the program would construct its schedule around three foundational beliefs: preparing players for the postseason, taking care of the fans and paying mind to the financial implications of each game.
“The 25-year-old doesn't work anymore,” Calipari wrote. “It is done and blown up. We are going by our own model now: the gold standard. Everyone has to accept that.
“We are going through things that no other program in the history of college basketball has gone through. No other program is losing five or six players a year. We are facing issues and having to make decisions with the thought of what's next and where we are going, which includes our schedule.”
The scheduling issue reached a boiling point when Indiana and Kentucky, who have played continuously since the 1969-70 season, could not agree on where future games should be played. Calipari and Kentucky wanted to return the game to a neutral site format while Indiana was insistent on having the series played in each school's home arena. The public spat because a national talking point when negotiations fell apart, ending the border rivalry for now.
The criticism only grew when Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart acknowledged the likely end of the North Carolina series, which has been a staple of college basketball's early season for the past 12 years.
Calipari cited not over taxing what will likely be a freshmen-dominated team each year as reason for having to re-evaluate those home-and-home series.
“This is a players-first program, and you cannot put a young team into situations that is not fair to the players,” Calipari wrote. “In a traditional program, you can sign an eight-year deal because you may have the same team for three or four years and have an idea of what your roster will be. However, this is not traditional.
“We will no longer have multiple contracts of longer than two years. Because of our roster turnover, it makes it difficult to lock ourselves into five home-and-home series. If we need to replace a team for a year or two, we will have the option to do that to protect our program.”
Calipari has made no secret of his desire to play neutral site games instead of non-conference road affairs. He again used that preferences to explain UK's current situation.
“It's not just about winning as many games as we can or playing as many home games as we can play,” Calipari wrote. “There are no road games in the NCAA Tournament. You are in a neutral venue, hopefully with more of our fans than anybody else, and they're in big building. Why not prepare for that? Part of that means you've got to play in big arenas, you've got to play in football stadiums; you've got to do something to get them ready for a Sweet 16 or a Final Four. A lot of teams do not have that opportunity. We do, and we need to take advantage of it.”
Calipari said Kentucky the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference and the scheduling changes that will come with it have forced Kentucky to change its approach. That means if series like Indiana, North Carolina and perhaps even Louisville are going to remain on the schedule their setup may change.
“Whether the game is played at Rupp Arena or at a neutral site you'll be watching us against the best programs in the country,” Calipari wrote. “The traditions of North Carolina, Louisville and Indiana can continue, but a couple of them may have to be at neutral sites.”
While Kentucky remains locked into a contract with Louisville for several more years it is clear the future of the Cats' basketball scheduling will take on a much different look as long as Calipari is the coach.
“It's time we learn and come to grips with the fact that we are not a traditional program,” Calipari wrote.
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