Over the weekend, John Calipari took to his own website — CoachCal.com – to try to explain to Kentucky fans why his “nontraditional” program needed to schedule differently than other programs. We’ve talked about the issue yesterday and today already. Calipari’s goal is to play more marquee games on neutral courts. Visiting fewer “name” programs campuses means fewer “name” programs will visit Rupp Arena and we at MrSEC.com think that’s a shame for UK fans.
Apparently we’re not alone in that view. In fact, two Lexington writers are pooh-poohing Calipari’s explanation.
Mark Story of The Lexington Herald-Leader lays out a number of topics today and assesses each as being either fact or fiction. Here’s an excerpt:
“In a scheduling missive he posted on his personal Web site on Sunday night, John Calipari claims that signing contracts for longer than two years for annual rivalry games with Louisville, Indiana and North Carolina potentially puts Kentucky — with its full embrace of one-and-done players and the annually in-flux rosters that have resulted — in a situation that is unfair to UK’s players.
Story’s colleague at The Herald-Leader, John Clay, also takes exception to Calipari’s spin job:
“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.”
Can’t say that we disagree with Clay’s sentiments. After all, here’s what we wrote on this topic exactly one week ago today:
“Both coaches have their own best interests at heart, of course. (Indiana’s Tom) Crean knows that Kentucky under Calipari will likely remain an NBA-lite type of program. Better to face them with a homecourt advantage every other year.
Calipari knows that putting the games on neutral courts will drive up television interest in the game… not that the Cats are short on exposure as things currently stand. Also, if you’ve got the heavyweight program, why go into the other guy’s gym at all? Remember, UK had two losses last season. One came in the finals of the SEC Tournament to Vanderbilt. The other came in December at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.”
Whatever spin Calipari puts on his decision to not play Indiana or North Carolina this season, the fact of the matter remains that the class of 2012 does not look to be as good as the class of 2011. That’s not just for Kentucky, but for the national 2012 class as a whole. And as his team looks — on paper at least — like it might struggle a hair more than last year’s bunch as a result, UK’s coach is easing back off the scheduling throttle just a bit.
There’s nothing wrong with that. UK plays a good schedule every year. They’ll still play a good schedule this year, too. For that reason, Calipari shouldn’t feel the need to pitch his program as “nontraditional” and in need of some newfangled scheduling methods. After all, in three years of traditional scheduling the Cats have reached an Elite Eight, a Final Four, and a won a national title.
Why change now? Unless your goal is to lead a team to an undefeated season — as Calipari has stated his is — and you realize that avoiding tough road trips into hostile gyms gives you a better chance to do so.