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Calipari Looks to Return Kentucky to SEC (and National) Prominence

Posted: Mar 31, 2009

The big decision has finally been made. After nine years of building up Memphis to a perennial power, John Calipari has decided to leave the Bluff City for the money, big conference pedigree, and national attention that comes with being the head basketball coach at Kentucky. The move to Lexington should satisfy Coach Cal’s desire to be at a tradition-laden powerhouse and should also satisfy the desire of Wildcats’ fans to return to the forefront of the college hoops conversation. It’s a move eerily similar to the hiring of Nick Saban at Alabama, an old-school SEC heavyweight who was willing to wreck the coaching pay structure to get their guy.

Kentucky has not won the SEC since the 2004-05 season and has not gone to the Final Four since winning the title in 1998. Even though Tubby Smith had a quality record in Lexington, the perception of the demanding fan base was that UK was not competing for the top recruits. After three NCAA Tourney 2nd round exits in four years, Kentucky said goodbye to Smith and hello to tireless recruiter Billy Gillispie. Being the most recognizable face in the state was never a good fit for the reclusive Texan. The program suffered through home losses to VMI, San Diego, and Gardner-Webb (plus no championships), and consequently, a move had to be made.

The appeal of Calipari is plain and simple-he gets the top recruits. Many have questioned his methods, but the reality is that he is the best candidate to attract immediate talent and return the Big Blue to where the fan base wants to be. Finishing in the middle of the SEC is just not acceptable to the 24,000+ fans who fill Rupp Arena each game. And while the money may be exorbitant and Calipari’s history may be scrutinized, it’s a risk that Big Blue Nation is willing to take.

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