For a league that talks a tough game — and has the hardware to back up its bravado — it sure seems that the Southeastern Conference is being run by sissies and scaredy-cats this week.
* LSU’s Les Miles and Joe Alleva have said they have no problem with playing Florida in football every year… they just don’t think it’s fair that they have to play Florida in football every year. Nevermind that Florida and LSU have won a combined four BCS titles since 2003 while playing each other.
* Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork — like Mississippi State AD Scott Stricklin a couple of months ago — has admitted that he doesn’t want the league to go to nine conference games because his school would have a tougher path toward bowl eligibility. Better to go 2-6 in the SEC and eek out four wins over non-conference flops than try to actually improve to the point that 6-6 isn’t the darned goal.
* Steve Spurrier proposed that non-division games not even count in the SEC standings, despite the fact that any win over a division foe already gives the winner of that game what amounts to a two-game lead in the standings. Rather than worrying about beating a so-so Auburn at home — which the Gamecocks couldn’t do last year — Spurrier favored changing the rules so that game against Auburn wouldn’t even count.
* And now Kentucky has been thrown under the bus by folks at the Indiana University for not even meeting the Hoosiers half way when it came to keeping their decades-old hoops rivalry alive.
Over the past month, Indiana and Kentucky have gone back and forth over their basketball series. Indiana and coach Tom Crean wanted the yearly games to be played in Lexington and Bloomington. John Calipari wanted the games to be played at neutral sites like Louisville and Indianapolis.
Both parties failed to compromise earlier this month and both got a little egg on their faces for calling a halt to their classic rivalry. As it turns out, UK deserved the egg to the face, not IU.
The Bloomington Herald Times released yesterday a letter sent from IU athletic director Fred Glass to Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart on May 10th. In it, Glass proposed what we at MrSEC.com proposed at the time — a compromise that would move the game through Lexington, Indianapolis (for two years), and Bloomington over a four-year period. Win-win.
Only Barnhart responded in the negative to the compromise.
According to Glass, “we were back to Kentucky’s take it or leave it demand that we play on a neutral court with no opportunities to play on our campuses in front of our students and other season ticket-holders.”
IU has the letter showing that the Hoosiers offered a compromise. No compromise was struck. Therefore it seems pretty obvious that Calipari, Barnhart and UK did indeed stick to their take it or leave it demand, just as Glass suggested. (Though Barnhart claims there were other factors at play.)
Why? Because Calipari’s next stated goal is to put together an undefeated season. For all the bluster about UK being a new kind of “non-traditional” program that’s built for big neutral site games, the Cats’ coach has been around long enough to know that it’s a helluva lot easier to win at home or on a neutral court than it is to win on someone else’s home floor. You might recall that one of Kentucky’s two losses this past season came… where? Ah, yes, at Indiana. In Bloomington.
Calipari wants an undefeated season. The clearest path to an unbeaten season will feature as few tough, true road games as possible. So even though Indiana was willing to give a little to get a little, UK’s coach and athletic director refused to give an inch.
Some Cat fans will call that bold leadership.
We call it chicken. Which is something Calipari and Kentucky have proven over the past three years that they have no reason to be. Calipari has restored Kentucky basketball to its rightful throne. Too bad he is no longer willing to play “anyone, anywhere” as he’s so often claimed.
(UPDATE — Let’s make something very clear here as people are already taking what we’ve written and twisting it. This site has repeatedly praised Calipari for being willing to schedule name teams. He still is. But he’s trying to schedule the vast majority of them away from home courts. That is the issue. The “anyone” part of Calipari’s mantra is still intact. The “anywhere” part? Not so much.)