Kentucky’s John Calipari might line up one of the nation’s tougher non-conference schedules each year, but Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings thinks UK’s coach has a pretty cushy ride once league play begins. Specifically, two things stick in the Vandy coach’s craw:
1. For the second year in a row UK will not have a quick Thursday-Saturday turnaround.
2. Kentucky will play four Saturday games against teams coming off Thursday games and that’s more than any other team in the league.
Stallings wants to know whazzup with that:
“Go figure that one out for me, would you? We all agreed to do it, so if you have one, like we have one, I’m not going to complain. To not have any and to be able to play four teams that have to do it to play you… that’s not right.”
Not sure about you, but to this writer it sure sounds like Stallings is complaining.
But let’s give the explanation part a try. First and foremost, the league’s basketball schedule is created in concert with ESPN for television purposes. Guess who the SEC’s biggest TV draw is by far. Now realize that ESPN’s main SEC basketball night is its “Super Tuesday” block. When UK gets moved off of the standard Wednesday night routine, it typically slides to Tuesday, not to Thursday.
The Cats have five such Tuesday night games this season and they will not play again on Wednesday for the rest of the year. They do have one Thursday nighter (against Georgia on March 1st) but that will be followed by a Sunday noon game against Florida. Know why? CBS traditionally kicks a UK game into the noon timeslot on final day of the regular season (this year Florida replaces Tennessee as UK’s last day opponent).
Stallings’ issue with Kentucky’s schedule has more to do with ESPN and CBS than it does the SEC office. But before he barks too loudly, he might want to keep these points in mind:
1. The SEC’s highest-rated games tend to involve Kentucky.
2. The higher the ratings for SEC basketball, the better the cashflow into the league long-term via TV contracts.
3. The better the cashflow into the SEC, the more money trickles back to Vanderbilt… who pays Stallings’ salary.
Television rules college sports these days. And with ESPN and CBS already paying the SEC about three billion dollars — that’s billion with a B — over a 15-year span, those two networks are typically going to get exactly what they want from Mike Slive and league office.
And for the record, LSU and Auburn will not play Thursday-Saturday turnarounds, either.