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Kentucky's Mark Stoops Responds to John Calipari: 'Don't Demean' Football Program

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 13, 2022

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops elaborated on his recent remark toward Wildcats men's basketball coach John Calipari after Calipari called Kentucky a "basketball school."

"I don't care about anyone’s program, I stay in my lane," Stoops told reporters Saturday. "But when you start talking about mine, and people I compete against, I'm going to defend my players. … Don't demean and distract from what we've done to get to this point."

In an interview with The Athletic's Kyle Tucker, Calipari lobbied for the school to make facility upgrades for the basketball school, pointing toward the sport's importance:

"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.

Those comments drew a swift response from Stoops:

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>

Athletic director Mitch Barnhart attempted to shift the narrative a bit Saturday:

Jon Hale @JonHale_HL

Barnhart Calipari comments "created an unproductive and unfortunate situation."<br><br>Says he's talked to both Calipari and Stoops.

Nick Roush @RoushKSR

Mitch Barnhart blames the media and "the world we're living in" for the latest Kentucky controversy. "You look to create stories and it becomes the fact."

Calipari also struck an apologetic tone on social media:

John Calipari @UKCoachCalipari

Now I’ll do what I’ve done for 30 years: Coach my team and block out the clutter.

Kentucky is one of college basketball's blue bloods, and the Wildcats have earned a national title and four Final Four trips under Calipari's watch.

But the gulf between men's basketball and football isn't quite so wide as it once was.

The football program is coming off a 10-3 season and won its fourth straight bowl game—the longest such streak in school history—with a 25-17 victory over Iowa in the Citrus Bowl. The Wildcats ended the year 18th in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and climbed as high as 11th.

You can understand why Stoops and his assistants would take exception to somebody—a peer at Kentucky no less—downplaying what the team has achieved.

Matt Jones @KySportsRadio

I suspect Calipari and Stoops will come together soon and squash this and put on a public good face <br><br>But I can tell you there are definitely folks on the Football side who are very upset

Calipari's interview is also the kind of thing rival coaches can pounce upon when attempting to compete for high school recruits or experienced players in the transfer portal. Why go to Kentucky when football isn't even the school's top priority?

Cooler heads should prevail in this situation, but Calipari clearly touched a nerve.

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