Mark Stoops Questions John Calipari's Statement That Kentucky Is 'Basketball School'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 11, 2022

Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops doesn't believe the program is the little brother to Wildcats men's basketball anymore.

Stoops pushed back against the idea expressed by men's basketball coach John Calipari that Kentucky is a "basketball school":

Mark Stoops @UKCoachStoops

Basketball school? I thought we competed in the SEC? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/4straightpostseasonwins?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#4straightpostseasonwins</a> <a href="https://t.co/xUoKmUeonH">https://t.co/xUoKmUeonH</a>

In an interview with The Athletic's Kyle Tucker, Calipari campaigned for facility upgrades and argued his case by pointing toward how important basketball is toward UK's identity:

"And the reason is, this is a basketball school. It’s always been that. Alabama is a football school. So is Georgia. I mean, they are. No disrespect to our football team. I hope they win 10 games and go to bowls. At the end of the day, that makes my job easier and it makes the job of all of us easier. But this is a basketball school. And so we need to keep moving in that direction and keep doing what we’re doing."

Stoops' rejoinder is understandable and reflects the relative success he has helped deliver on the gridiron. Kentucky is coming off its second 10-win season under his nine-year watch, and its streak of four straight years with a bowl victory is the longest in school history.

When laying out its budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, the university also reported higher revenues for football ($40 million) than men's basketball ($29.6 million). Football had a higher percentage of expenses as well.

Football is big business for the University of Kentucky.

Having said that, Calipari's position still reflects the reality of the situation to a large degree, and Stoops' recent contract extension is a perfect illustration.

Stoops signed a new deal last December, one that will pay him $6.75 million starting with the 2022 season. The 55-year-old is basically bulletproof in Lexington right now despite delivering zero national titles and zero New Year's Six bowl bids.

Calipari, by contrast, has guided Kentucky to one national title and four Final Four appearances. His 365 wins are second only to Adolph Rupp in school history.

Still, the immediate reactions to the Wildcats' first-round upset to St. Peter's in the first round of the 2022 NCAA tournament is a testament to how past achievements—no matter how significant—only counts for so much in the eyes of fans.

The gulf between Kentucky football and men's basketball is certainly closing, but Stoops might want to consider how perceiving the Wildcats to be a "football school" means more scrutiny and higher expectations.

Life in the shadow of Kentucky basketball isn't all that bad when you think about it.


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