In case you were somehow unaware, Indiana men’s basketball is set to resume its rivalry series with Kentucky.
If you know anything about this blog you’d know its writers, past and present, have called for the return of this series since it came to an abrupt, deeply unfortunate conclusion over a decade ago.
You’d be hard-pressed to find college basketball programs with as much history as the Hoosiers and Wildcats. It’d be equally as hard to find two with as much history with one another among that group.
Outside of Duke-UNC, there’s not many annual rivalries between two title-winning programs outside of this one. It came to an end after Indiana’s last-second win in 2011.
You see, John Calipari had signaled an interest in ending one of the Wildcats’ annual rivalry matchups... right after that happened. Negotiations to keep the series going cratered over a disagreement between whether to play the games at neutral sites or on each campus.
It’s been dormant ever since, for over a decade.
Let me be extremely clear about this: ending this series, for as long as it wasn’t played, is nothing short of a travesty of tradition. There’s very real bad blood between the two fanbases, try living anywhere near the Ohio River for an extended period of time.
That cancellation, brought on by Kentucky, absolutely tanked the rivalry for over a generation of fans of each program.
Undergrads at both schools today were in elementary school the last time the two played in the regular season. They have little to no memories associated with the rivalry, which is what’s gonna happen with realignment should those historic rivalries not be played either.
That’s nothing short of terrible. One of the best parts of college athletics, decades-long rivalries, thrown right in the garbage.
Today, news broke that the series is back on. The planned games are as follows:
- 2025-26: Lexington
- 2026-27: Lucas Oil Stadium
- 2027-28: Lexington
- 2028-29: Assembly Hall
So, counting that up, it’s two games at the Cats’ arena in Lexington, one in Indianapolis and one at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Take extra note that the one matchup in Bloomington is in 2028-29. Of note, Kentucky’s recently-scheduled series against Gonzaga doesn’t have the Cats’ travelling up north until... 2027.
John Calipari is 64 years old. He’s watched contemporaries such as Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and even 61-year-old Jay Wright walk away from the game over the past few years.
Calipari signed an extension back in 2019 that was unofficially dubbed a “lifetime contract” with Kentucky: 10 years up right after... the 2028-29 season. And get this, there’s a clause in the contract should Cal step down after 2025.
Should Calipari step down as head coach, he’d instantly receive a position as a university representative with a yearly salary of $950,000.
With the game at Assembly Hall pushed back as far as possible in the series, how can fans expect the coach whose contract runs out the year after and can step down to receive a lifetime salary anytime after the first game to coach that game? Or the road game against Gonzaga.
The answer is they can’t.
The entire argument over resuming the series was dependent on the games’ sites. It’s always been about that matchup in Indianapolis instead of one in Bloomington. The difference between Woodson and Cal is that one is willing to play on the other’s home court. The other, as proven time and again, doesn’t have it in him to do it again.
The power to prove all of this wrong rests with Calipari himself.
So, what’ll it be man? Are you a bad enough dude to coach a game in Assembly Hall?