It is anyone’s guess what the 2020-21 college basketball season will look like. The NCAA has landed on a start date for play to begin—Nov. 25—but teams have to scramble to figure out their schedules, with the status of non-conference play for many teams uncertain. Kentucky basketball’s John Calipari says that he fully intends to play this year’s game at Louisville, but is not thrilled with Chris Mack about concerns he’s raised about attendance.
The game is traditionally played in late December, often a few days before or after Christmas. Louisville is slated to host this year’s game at the KFC Yum! Center, looking to snap a three-game losing streak to Kentucky basketball. Of course, it is unclear if many, if any, fans will be able to attend. As a result, Mack thinks it is unfair that they’d host a game in an empty arena, and turn around to play in Lexington next year.
“We want to play the game. They seem to want to play on their terms,” Mack told the Courier-Journal. “It’s supposed to be our home game this year, and again, I just don’t see the equity of playing the home game in front of potentially no fans and then returning a game to Rupp Arena in front of 22,000 fans. We’re not afraid to play anybody. We’ll play the game at a neutral site. If it screws up their schedule next year, we’ll play two neutral games in a row. There are a lot of logistics that go into scheduling so I’m not trying to throw it all on UK, but we don’t want the rivalry or the game to end.”
Calipari isn’t taking kindly to any of Mack’s insinuations, and in response, calls him out right back. “My hope is they are not trying to end this series,” Calipari says to close his statement.
The full Calipari statement about Louisville
“My hope is they are not trying to end this series” pic.twitter.com/7b8Z0bWu1v
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) September 25, 2020
“Chris and I have talked and he expressed his concerns,” John Calipari says in his statement on this year’s game. “While I understand the difficulty and the complications created by pandemic, we are prepared to come to Louisville to play this season under the previously agreed upon terms, and we fully expect Louisville to honor the agreement with a return game to Rupp Arena next season.”
“We are contracted to play Notre Dame and a Big 12 opponent for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge in Rupp Arena this season and we are honoring those contracts even if it is with little or no fans. It is no one’s fault that we are in a pandemic. We cannot predict the future with this virus whether that’s this December or next December. My hope is they are not trying to end this series because it is important for this state that we play.”
It is definitely not ideal for Louisville that the team may lose home court advantage for a season in this rivalry game. However, John Calipari is correct here. It is not Kentucky’s fault that a pandemic is currently raging on. We’re lucky to have sports at all this year. Putting a historic rivalry in jeopardy over the state of attendance for one season seems ridiculous, and every team in college sports is going through similar situations, especially for one-off annual rivalry games.
Hopefully the two sides can figure this out. Missing the Louisville-Kentucky basketball game this year would be a total shame.