Both Kentucky and Arkansas get a fresh start with John Calipari leaving for Arkansas

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Only a few things in college basketball could overshadow the title game of any NCAA Tournament, especially one as anticipated as what we’re getting here inside State Farm Stadium on Monday night.
But a divorce between Kentucky and John Calipari is definitely high on the list.
Simply put, this seems like a situation where everybody, at least in theory, will be better off moving forward, like a situation where Arkansas fans and Kentucky fans probably both woke up happy Monday morning, which is not normally how high-profile coaching developments work.
3 seed in the 2024 NCAA Tournament.
In that moment, Calipari seemed likely to continue operating at the tip-top of college basketball for at least another decade.
For all of these reasons and more, it was clearly time for Calipari and Kentucky to move in different directions — but how?
So John Calipari is off to Arkansas.
UK fans are, too.

NEUTRAL

In Glendale, Arizona. There aren’t many events in college basketball that could top the NCAA Tournament title game, particularly one as big as the one we have scheduled for Monday night inside State Farm Stadium. However, John Calipari and Kentucky getting divorced would undoubtedly rank highly on the list.

And now here we are.

According to reports, John Vincent Calipari, the 65-year-old Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer, will officially announce his departure from Kentucky for Arkansas at some point this week. This move may seem unexpected at first, but it makes perfect sense in light of the circumstances. It may even happen as early as Tuesday. In other words, despite the fact that high-profile coaching developments typically don’t go as planned, it appears that everyone will, at least in theory, be better off in the long run. Fans of Kentucky and Arkansas alike likely woke up on Monday morning feeling upbeat.

Individuals frequently feel misunderstood or biased.

However, not at this moment.

Arkansas is getting what it wants, especially in Calipari, a legendary coach who has undoubtedly declined in recent years but nevertheless put together and led a Kentucky team good enough to earn a No. ranked third in the NCAA Tournament of 2024. Additionally, Kentucky is getting what it wanted, namely a coaching change after 15 years that will not have cost the school a dime of the estimated $33 million it would have owed Calipari had he been fired after his season ended two years earlier with an 85-79 loss to Saint Peter’s in the NCAA Tournament’s first round in 2022.

UK has had a difficult period lately.

It had gotten so awkward that when word leaked out on Sunday that Calipari was in talks with Arkansas, Big Blue Nation erupted into a social media frenzy, pleading with their coach to move on and setting up a scene that would have been unthinkable even five years ago, in 2015, when Calipari was essentially the sport’s king after winning the 2012 NCAA Tournament and making four Final Fours in eight years. At least ten more years of dominating college basketball seemed likely for Calipari at that point.

To oversimplify, let me say this: after college basketball began to change in a number of ways, Calipari was slow to adapt. This led to nine years of ups and downs, most of which were disappointments. Calipari is still without a national championship, despite having coached nearly a billion future NBA players between then and now. In addition, he has missed nine seasons in a row at UK without making it to the Final Four, which is unusual for a program with a proud history of making 17 Final Fours. It is also disheartening considering the caliber of players who have called Rupp Arena home for the majority of the previous ten years.

It was evidently time for Calipari and Kentucky to take different paths for all of the above reasons, but how? Kentucky was unwilling or unable to pay his projected $33 million buyout in order to turn things around following the defeat to Oakland, and nobody in the world could make a deal good enough to allow Calipari to walk away from these awful times at UK without also leaving millions of dollars on the table?

In response, Arkansas!

According to leaked contract information, Calipari will likely earn about the same amount of money at Arkansas as he would have at Kentucky. Additionally, with the Razorbacks, he will have access to so many resources in terms of name, image, and likeness that acquiring players through the transfer portal or high school prospects should not be too difficult. In conclusion, it would be absurd for Calipari to delay making this move, as his family’s quality of life in a place where they are no longer wanted can hardly be enjoyable. Nevertheless, it is reasonable for him to do so at this time.

So, Arkansas is where John Calipari is headed.

Fans of Razorback are thrilled.

As are their counterparts in the UK.

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