No sale on Calipari’s “nontraditonal” schedule argument

John Calipari

Ok, I’ve read John Calipari’s rationalization for dropping the series with Indiana from the Kentucky basketball schedule and putting the North Carolina series on hiatus at least for one year.

His title: “Forming a nontraditional schedule for a nontraditional program.”

John Calipari might be college basketball’s greatest salesman, but, sorry, I’m not buying this one.

I thought John Calipari came to Kentucky because of the great tradition.

I thought that “the greatest tradition in the history of college basketball” is the program’s slogan.

Now, when it serves UK’s purpose, it’s a “nontraditional program.”

Calipari has done tremendous good since he took over the program three years ago. He’s won a national title. He’s been to two Final Fours. I can see his stance on most every position. But not this one.

The coach doesn’t want to play in Bloomington. That’s the bottom line. He can spin it any way he wants, but what it comes down to is that he doesn’t want to go back to Assembly Hall. Indiana is more than willing to come to Rupp Arena next season. But Calipari doesn’t want to go to Bloomington the next.

Here’s what bothers me about that: Tom Crean took over an Indiana program that was in shambles. It was on probation. It lacked talent. Crean suffered three losing seasons before he got the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16 this past season.

He had young teams, inexperienced teams, non-competitive teams.

But not once did he say he wanted out of the series, that the Kentucky-Indiana game was “putting his players at risk.”

Why is it now suddenly different for Kentucky?

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  1. Pete says:

    I’m with you John. This whole thing stinks. Finally, both programs are back to the point where this rivalry can be one of the 2 or 3 best in the country. And now it ends. I hate it.

  2. Jon says:

    I have to agree with some of cal’s arguments though. When you have one and dones, you need to get them into as many tournament style games as possible. You don’t have the benefit of having 3 and 4 year guys who have played in those settings in the years before. Cal would have stayed with IU playing only at Lucas Oil. He probably wants that more than anything because Lucas Oil will house the final four more than any arena over the next couple decades. How would it be bad if they instead sign a 2 yr deal with a team like Kansas that would play 2 games at Cowboy Stadium? If they can’t get it down with Kansas before next year, you can bet Cal will try for Reliant Stadium after that. That is part of his player first argument.

    Onto money, how does ESPN not offer a ton of cash for another IU Kentucky game?

  3. JB says:

    After the way our team and fans were treated in Bloomington this season, I could care less. If IU is going to condone drunken savagery at IU games to create an advantage, they can find a new rival, UK has too much class for that foolishness. That woman of a coach Tom Crean can find another rivalry in that four-square league they call the big ten.

  4. todd Hester says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you and what you wrote. I too am disappointed that Coach has dropped a rival game that has been going on for 42 straight years. I was at the IU game in Bloomington, it was bad, my wife and I both attended and we wore blue. We took some heat but never did I feel like I was in danger, ever. Yes it was awful how “they” acted, but it wasn’t enough to end one of college basketballs greatest rivalries in the history of the game. I’m sure many will reply otherwise and spin it “our” way, guess what, I’m not buying it. And also, a “players first program” or a “nontraditional program” is not what our players want either, they want to play the best year in and year out, even if it means going to IU and taking some heat.

  5. Bill Winter says:

    And Cal just added a banner to the greatest tradition in college basketball. What’s that equal? Slack. If he doesn’t want to play a game that has no impact on March, a game where UK fans get spit on and its players run the risk of getting trampled, I fully support his decision.

  6. Dave says:

    I totally agree with you John on Cal not wanting to go back to Bloomington and play for whatever reasons right or wrong. But it’s just as much IU’s fault because they don’t want to play in Indy, neutral court, because they are afraid the UK fans will buy up most of the tix and it will becaome a defacto UK home game. You all can spin it like you want but but this is not all Cal’s fault. IU bears half the blame. Some you all make it sound like its the end of the worl if we don’t play IU, UNC. Well guess what, we’ll still have a team and we’ll be playing somebody next year. Its time to move past this and look forward to next year.

  7. Bill Winter says:

    Anyone who thinks the players care whether or not we play at Indiana is delusional. They come to UK to play on the biggest stage, not get trampled by drunks. Cal tried to get the game switched to a larger venue that would simulate an NCAA tourney atmosphere, and now he’s somehow a villain?

    Also, the 50/50, neutral-court setting was the way the game was played until Gillispie changed it. We’re supposed to trust his scheduling ideas over Cal’s? That’s a joke.

  8. Darin says:

    Wonder how beers were thrown on people when Assembly Hall doesn’t serve beer. If people are going to lie then at least fact check. Idiots.

  9. Joseph says:

    After this morning’s cartoon by the Herald and this type of garbage, I’m not messing with the Herald anynmore. You’d think the guys at CBS Sports took over…

  10. BE says:

    JB – Why don’t you go take a long look at Anthony Bennett’s twitter feed (@ABennett24) and then tell me how “classy” UK fans are . . .

  11. Lori M says:

    I agree that Cal doesn’t want to play in Bloomington anymore. Cal is also looking for a way to further monetize Kentucky basketball games. I don’t know the details but I feel safe in saying UK got very little extra revenue for the IU game this past season. By taking the games to larger venues more tickets will be available to UK fans making a UK-IU game at Lucas Oil much more profitable.

    Aside to Darin, you don’t have to sell beer at the venue to have beer consumed at the venue. Not hard to sneak it in.

  12. Matt says:

    The real story is that Cal didn’t want to play IU at all. He has a legit shot at losing 3-4 games in a row to Crean with the talent that will be in Bloomington over the next couple years. I don’t blame him really. IU will have a strong mix of talented young and older players that will be a nightmare for the kids Cal will have on his roster. It’s better for UK to get experience through the season and possibly play them in the NCAA’s instead of risking an early season loss.

  13. figby says:

    well they don’t serve beer at assembly hall so i take it that indiana students are not creative enough to get beer in there. moving away from that aspect and on to gist of this article u.k. is on top of the mountain and can pick and choose how it wants to play out of conference games plain and simple. john calipari is the coach of the national champions.(not a paperboy for the lexinton herald)

  14. TheJokesOnUs says:

    Another season that ticket buyers will be subjected to div 3 schools coming to Rupp Arena. Just like the 2010-2011 season where every game was blowout, I saw a woman knitting during a game, and I wasted thousands of dollars on 9 exhibition games that we’re labeled as OOC home games.

    Thank you herald leader for being the voice of reason. I don’t mind dropping IU, but at least keep the UNC series. Stop trying to turn UK into Duke.

  15. Troy says:

    Maybe you should check some facts Darin, it wasn’t at the game where UK fans had beer thrown on them it was as they walked to the game and at restaurants. You call people idiots and that they should check their facts when you are the idiot for not checking your facts.

  16. Mark says:

    “But it’s just as much IU’s fault because they don’t want to play in Indy, neutral court, because they are afraid the UK fans will buy up most of the tix and it will becaome a defacto UK home game.”

    Ummmm, No.

    Indiana fans would buy at the very least 50 percent, if not more, of the tickets if it were played at Lucas Oil every year. Take off teh blue shades. I went to the RCA Dome to root for Kentucky during those games and I bet it was about 55-60% IU fans. And those were mostly in years UK was the better team. That is clearly not the reason, since as John points out – the were willing to come to Rupp this upcoming season, just as they were willing to come to Rupp when their team was absolutely in shambles because of Sampson.

    This stinks, and I blame 80% or more of it on Coach Cal.

  17. Navin says:

    “After the way our team and fans were treated in Bloomington this season, I could care less. If IU is going to condone drunken savagery at IU games to create an advantage, they can find a new rival, UK has too much class for that foolishness.”

    Evidently, you forgot about the Erruption Zone chanting “Walsh is gay” awhile back when Florida came to town. How clever and original, not to mention classy.

    Nice try, JB.

  18. G says:

    They better put that 8th banner up with velcro, becau$e it’ll be coming down in a couple of year$.

  19. Will says:

    Hey, we love Calipari but he doesn’t walk on water. We don’t have to buy into everything he does. We do have an opinion and you don’t have to respect it but we don’t deserve an 18th century lynching because we don’t agree.

  20. Marc Elmore says:

    If UK goes to the Final Four and wins the National Championship, who really cares who we play in the meaningless regular season?

    I mean, really, who cares?

    If we start underachieving in the tournament, I’ll worry about the IU series.

  21. KDPearson says:

    Crean didn’t say “putting his players at risk,” because they aren’t at Lexington. In basketball we don’t rush the court (unlike football). Miller got trampled in Bloomington. He was at risk. I support UK’s position for a neutral court series. It makes sense financially and in the safety of UK’s players. IU killed the series through it fans behavior and position on neutral court play.

  22. John Shindlebower says:

    Every season since 1969-70, Kentucky and Indiana have met on the basketball court. It’s truly one of the great rivalries in all of sports, especially given the importance of basketball in those two states.

    That rivalry ends this year, thanks to UK’s insistence to no longer have it an on-campus game. This year, the game would have pitted the Hoosiers, preseason No. 1, against the defending national champions in Rupp Arena. Who wouldn’t love such a game? Apparently Kentucky Coach John Calipari.

    The coach/king went to his website to spew some propaganda to the blind UK followers about why UK needs to be non-traditional in scheduling now.

    “It’s time we learn and come to grips with the fact that we are not a traditional program,” said Cal. Not sure what that means, expect to say that traditionally, college programs have recruited kids, built them up for four seasons, and played other teams who did the same. In his scheduling manifesto posted on his site, he seems to suggest that recent success warrants UK should set and play by its own rules. And to think some people have been turned off by UK because they think Big Blue Nation is elitist?

    He further defends watering down the schedule based on the fact that his perpetually young teams will not be up to the task of facing more seasoned teams so early in their college careers.

    “This is a players-first program and you cannot put a young team into situations that is not fair to the players,” wrote Cal. Skeptics will translate that into a veiled admission that Cal is backing out of playing top-tier opposition because his fresh-out-of-high school recruits aren’t ready to play big-time basketball. They need a few months to adjust.

    So, Kentucky fans, instead of being treated to home games against powerhouses like North Carolina and Indiana, you’ll get to pay premium bucks to watch the likes of Lamar, Rider and Sienna. Who cares that Kentucky fans have enjoyed the traditional rivalries – coach said UK is non-traditional and who dares argue with the great and powerful Cal?

    “If eight guys leave and go in the first round, and we’re not the type of team that can play a ridiculously hard schedule, then we shouldn’t be locked into contracts we can’t adjust,” continued Calipari. Those are words written by a man who once boasted an “I’ll play anyone, anywhere, anytime” attitude, but now suggests that he wants to cater his schedule around how good his team is. As a lifelong UK fan, I’m embarrassed to admit it – but that’s cowardly.

    But Cal is adamant about his “nontraditional approach,” suggesting he’s not playing to win games in the regular season, but preparing for the postseason.

    “It’s either we do that or we over-schedule and put our players at risk,” he continued.

    Risk of what – losing a regular season game or two? Instead, Cal puts UK at risk of losing all respect and integrity by padding the schedule.

  23. John B says:

    WOW!!! This whole thing is crazy….I am thinking it is Gotti not Calapari..I mean come on he looks the part and is now acting the part..Untraditional program and schedule???…and you have to write a book to explain what you are doing and why…this says hey everyone I am wrong but you cant do anything to me I just won a championship..I am “GOD” …I am ok as long as I am winning..but now that the talent level is evening out…I want out!…he didnt want to suffer his first loss in rupp and trust me if IU and UK played this year it WOULD be a loss for UK…I dont care if they played on Mars!!and he knew he would loss again in Btown next year…oh and just remember Gotti finially got his too!!!

  24. Bill says:

    First not serving beer and preventing it from getting in are two different things. Next player and fan security are important and need to be addressed. I live in Ohio and have seen pretty dumb stuff at OSU football games such as throwing stuff of the top of the stadium on departing fan after a loss, it is dangerous. I was not there so i do not know how bad it was but tossing drinks at folks booze , beer or soft is bush league! I would bet had that happened in a Big Ten game there may have been more than a “I’m Sorry” such as fines. I have seen the SEC fine teams in football for rushing the field and yes UK too but it is a lot bigger area an more safe than a small court and still discouraged. Now fro coach, I doubt he is even a little concerned a bout who we play as we are generally good enough to hold our own or even win it all so get a life folks we will survive.


  26. Leroy says:

    Why is everyone taking Crean’s side on this? He is a terrific coach, honestly he was my second choice to Calipari back when Donovan didn’t want to come and we hired Billy G. This could turn out to be something that UK fans love. I would love to see the UKIT come back in a form that UK hosts a game, and maybe it alternates year to year who is the host for the second game. UK vs. Butler for one game and Ohio St. vs. Arizona? No championship game, but a good game for UK and a neutral court game for two other schools. I think ESPN would interested. I don’t know if it could happen, but it never will unless we are willing to let some things go. And tell me, would you trade title number 8 to keep the Indiana series going? I know Indiana would not trade any of their titles to keep it going. I will miss the game with Indiana, but what if there is something better? Calipari does not want to play in Bloomington, so what? Indiana would not like Lexington if it was not still playing the underdog…which is exactly what we are letting them play, and they are as much to blame as UK.

  27. Joe B says:

    The whining about the the fans behavior at Assembly really needs to stop. Welcome to a road game at a rival in college basketball; students will taunt, will do immature things, etc. This isn’t unique to Bloomington. I imagine a few of the “angels” at Rupp even did this last time IU came into town. Fans of any team who just came back from the worst 3 years of their programs existence and then beat one of their top 2 rivals while they were #1 would have rushed the court. Get over it. And as mentioned above, beer is not sold in Assembly so stop lieing about beer being thrown on people. If you can’t handle a true college basketball atmosphere at road games then play all your games on neutral sites and stop whining.

  28. Dave says:

    No Darin, your the idiot if you think just because beer or liquor of any kind doesn’t get into assembly hall just becasue they don’t sell it inside. Please. It happens at Rupp as well. Yum center sells it as no conf rule against it like SEC has.

  29. kybasser says:

    Maybe Crean didn’t get out of the UK/IU game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t want out. Remember, there were signed contracts, and unless you know for sure, you really don’t know if there was a buyout clause like rp and UL used to get out of going to WKU because they were so scared that WKU would beat them. That was the year after WKU beat UK in Rupp, and they had that huge 7 footer.

    Funny how this paper will use rp and UL as standard holders when it suits them, but ignore them when their behavior is worse than UK’s and it no longer suits the writer’s agenda of making UK look bad.

    Bloomington is 17,000 seats, Rupp is 24,000 seats. Go to Lucas Oil and Yum! and you increase the total attendance and both schools make more money. It is more important to UK maybe because the basketball program is expected to offer more financial support to the other non-revenue producing programs.

    And for the record, those seating capacities, that makes Rupp over 41% more capacity than Assembly Hall.

    Go CATS!!!!!!

  30. rjr says:

    Very disappointed they will not be playing next year. I personally would have preferred a return to the neutral sites, however, as I recall the great atmosphere at Freedom Hall for the games. But, having said that, if it comes down to not playing the games or playing home and home, I can’t believe there is even a discussion. The truth is, I can take losing to Indiana at Indiana. That’s what rivalry games are all about.

    But what Cal is doing isn’t any different then what Duke has done for years. When you get to a certain level and you can dictate who you play and when, I can see why Cal wouldn’t want to cave on that principle. I’m sure Kansas would agree to play us on neutral sites as will Ohio State and others. Please don’t believe for a second Indiana’s decision not to budge had anything to do with students- it had to do with their realization they couldn’t beat Kentucky on a neutral floor.

  31. Gary says:

    Never thought something like this would hit a nerve for so many fans….but of course it is the off season with no games and slow recruiting news. I might as well throw in my rambling thoughts also.
    Coaches should have flexiblity in scheduling. Fans love rivalry games, but as a former coach I always hated them.
    I would be interested in how many non conference rivalry games the traditional basketball powers (UNC, UCLA, Duke, IU, etc.) play on a regular basis. And how many of them are home and home?
    I dislike games in domes, but the NCAA championship is going to remain in domes. I would want at least one game a year in a dome to acclimate the players to the atmosphere.

  32. HoosierStudent says:

    As an IU student who was at that game, I will first say that some of our fans may have been over the top. However, Kentucky basketball fans came into Bloomington smug, arrogant, and the many other adjectives that they have a right to be after winning so much. Second, I would guess that the model who sprained her ankle probably only did so because she was wearing high heels. High heels are not conducive to places with many steps, but a former playboy model wouldn’t really know that. Finally, we like liquor at IU. I would venture to guess that 95% of the students who drank before that game drank at least some hard liquor. Therefore, we focus our efforts on sneaking in liquor. I have been a season ticket holder for 4 years and never seen anybody smuggle in beers, especially throwing them at people. If the person said they got hit in the head with a flask, that is more believable.

    Bottom line is that it is sad that these 2 fine programs could not come to an agreement. Both are at fault, although I do question Calipari’s strategy with his scheduling. If you want an easier schedule for your freshman, come out and say it but don’t hide behind the “we’re a nontraditional program” mask. I suspect it has more to do with 2 reasons. The home winning streak means a lot to him, so why jeopardize it by playing quality teams at home? Nobody in the SEC is going to threaten it. The second reason, and one that everybody is forgetting, is that he is GREEDY. Bigger venues = more money for the athletic department = more money for Coach Cal. He is all about the money and always has been.

  33. Jon says:

    There was absolutely no difference between the IU crowd from last season than the crowd from 2 seasons previous for UK game in Bloomington. I was at both games. Hell the balcony felt like like it was shaking it was so loud and crazy in Assembly Hall the game before this one when UK had John Wall and Co. The only difference was the outcome of the game. No one made any fuss about the crowd at IU for the UK game before the last one.

  34. Mark Liptak says:

    Just for the record Crean himself said that he thought playing a game in Indianpolis would be to “expensive” and to “difficult” for IU students to get to.

    Excuse me? Indy is a 45 minute drive from the Bloomington campus.

    The “spin” works both ways folks.

    Bottom line as other national writers have pointed out, UK is in the position to pick and choose who they want to play and what they want to do.

    That comes from consecutive Final Four’s plus an Elite Eight appearance and a national title.

    If IU doesn’t like the situation, win a title then do what you want.

    But perhaps Crean should have been counting his players instead of spending so much time on the UK-IU series.

    CBS Sports is reporting he’s got 15 players and only 13 scholarships available.

    He’s got to run off two players or get two guys to pay their own way to get out of this.

    Nice work, Tommy.

    Mark LIptak

  35. hoosier rob says:

    as a Hoosier fan, I thought I’d throw in my two cents here:

    If I were a UK fan, I would not be happy about this move by Coach Cal. The way I see it, the old adage that losses in December can translate into Championships in March actually played out exactly so for UK. What’s wrong with a loss or two, especially to a rival on their home floor, if it means a tougher team down the road? If coach Crean took this playing-it-safe tactic, I would not be happy at all.

  36. Darin says:

    UK fans are idiots. They have no life and are sheep who believe everything that their loser, cheating coach says. Get a life idiots. Your coach (chickened) out. Own it.

  37. David C. says:

    If Indiana wanted it, they could have had it. UK even offered to play it at a bigger venue in Indiana. WOW the man wins a national championship and you all have to jump him cause he wants to drop one stupid game.

  38. Michael E says:

    You people are blind in more ways than one if you didn’t see the fans trampling our players when they rushed the court. I’d never, ever want to play there again. Neutral or nothing. Coach is spot-on.

  39. Darin – Coach Cal didn’t chicken out, as you so eloquently put it in a 2nd grade kind of way. Both schools are responsible for this series ending. It is sad to think they will not continue a series that has been played every year for 40+ years, but things change. It is only one game. Yeah, it was gonna be a good one this year, but come on, it’s not the end of the world. IU is trying to get a home and home with Kansas and UK is gonna find another big-time team to replace IU. I say these two teams will meet again in the not-to-distant future and everything in the world will be right again. Until then, the world will continue to revolve around the sun.

  40. Snow Hill Pond says:

    Cal wants an undefeated season. If you agree, then no games at Assembly Hall or the Dean Dome make sense.

  41. Notsofastmyfriend says:

    Actually, Coach Cal mentioned having to drop one or more of the non-conference games before the season bagan last year. This is not something that just came up because Cal doesn’t want to play IU. Don’t forget that the SEC is adding teams to the conference that will have to squeeze into the schedule with Missouri and Tex A&M. A neutral site game is much more representative of a NCAA tournament atmosphere plus you don’t have to worry about your players and fans safety. They are UK, why put yourself in that situation unless you have to. I won’t pretend to know what Cal is thinking by cancelling the home and home series, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t because he doesn’t want to play IU. Coach Crean specifically made it a point to try to keep UK fans out of the game at assembly hall which I can’t blame him. I don’t know how much money UK gets for the non conf away games but it would be a lot more at a neutral site. Crean didn’t want a neutral site so he doesn’t want to play UK, see that goes both ways.