Kentucky coach John Calipari used coachcal.com today to explain his thinking on UK’s scheduling now that Indiana and North Carolina won’t be on next year’s schedule by explaining that UK is “not a traditional program” and will use its own model for scheduling.
“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 are we going, which includes our schedule,” Calipari posted on the blog. “When we schedule, there are three factors my staff and our administration must take into consideration: (1) preparing our players for the postseason, (2) our fans and (3) the financial component.”
Calipari stressed he would not put a “young team into situations that is not fair to the players” and that UK will no longer have contracts longer than two years with any team to “protect the program” to avoid being locked into a schedule not right for a particular team like the one UK has coming back that lost its top six players off the national championship team.
“If the rule changes and we know we’re going to have the same team for three years, it changes how you schedule, but that’s not the case right now. We need the flexibility,” Calipari said.
Calipari said it is about preparing to win national titles, not regular-season games.
“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.
Calipari said with the SEC going from eight to nine home games for each team, he will continue to have one “marquee” home game annually along with one on the road.
“The traditions of North Carolina, Louisville and Indiana can continue, but a couple of them may have to be at neutral sites. It’s either we do that or we over-schedule and put our players at risk. Right now we’re locked into Louisville for a few more years, so that’s one of them. Where is the other one? We’re trying to walk through that now to see who it is and what we do,” Calipari said.
Calipari said his philosophy is good for fans and donors.
“For our K Fund donors, you will still have the best tickets and the best seats. For our season ticket holders at Rupp Arena, they will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets at the neutral sites. We will always have a minimum of 10 non-guarantee games with nine of those in Southeastern Conference play and at least one from our two home-and-home series. There will be times we have more, but never less, and our goal is to always have 19-20 home games for our season ticket holders even with the neutral site games,” the coach said. “More importantly, for the people who can’t afford to get into Rupp Arena or don’t have the opportunity to buy those tickets, they will now have an opportunity to buy all the extra tickets. Instead of 20,000 at home, we bring 40,000 on the road.”
Calipari said “we cannot underestimate that the financial component is a part of it, but it is by no means an overriding part” of making out UK’s schedule.
He said he expects UK fans to be “excited about” next year’s schedule and said anyone who thinks he is backing down from playing any opponent is wrong. Several national media members have noted they believe Calipari is “scared” to keep playing Indiana in particular now that the Hoosiers have beaten UK.
“How can anybody say that I want to back away from challenges? When I was at UMass, I saw what John Chaney and Temple were doing and adopted the motto ‘any team, any place, any time.’ My last year at UMass, we played 10 home games and 27 games away from home, and I carried that over to Memphis,” Calipari said. “What have I changed over the years? Do I get nervous in big games? Come on, it has nothing to do with that. I’ll play teams on I-64. We’ll close it down. I’m good with that. But this program is not traditional. This program is in a position right now that we must protect as we march forward to try to grow it to another level.
“For all the Big Blue Nation, please do not listen to someone who has never coached or listen to media who are agenda driven for another program. That includes fans from other programs.
Don’t listen to those people and have them affect how we think, because they have no effect whatsoever on how I think.”
Will all UK fans be happy with this explanation? No. Will Calipari’s critics buy it all? No.
However, he’s gone to the Elite Eight, Final Four and national titel game the last three years and seems to me that qualifies him to pick a schedule he deems best to make that keep happening. Big-time rivalries are nice, but Final Four trips and national titles are better.