The 2018 UK basketball media day featured a first: not one, but TWO questions about Kentucky football.
Throughout the Kentucky football team’s incredible 5-1 start, John Calipari has been one of the team’s biggest fans. Coach Cal is happy to see Mark Stoops and his players rewarded after an arduous turn-around.
“It’s great. I’m happy for their staff and Mark but I’m really happy for the guys who came back. Josh (Allen) is one of the best linebackers in all of college football. The guy is ridiculous,” Calipari said at the podium.
“What Mark has done and what Benny (Snell) and Josh and the guys have done to change the culture. Players ride the culture. It’s not like you say, ‘this is what it is,’ and they do what they want. They’ve gotta ride it, which means we’re going to compete and fight like heck, but we’re sticking together.”
The evidence of the change in culture is everywhere.
“Everybody was mad and angry. Do you remember two years ago when we’d be sad and disappointed? It wasn’t no sad now. Everybody, their staff was mad, their players were mad, our fans were mad, the culture has just changed in football.”
The winning culture of Stoops’ team has even intruded into Coach Cal’s morning coffee group. In the middle of one conversation, Calipari asked one of his friends who is on the schedule for November 9th.
“And he gives me the football game. What the hell you giving me a football schedule for?”
Calipari frequently talks to Stoops, even when Stoops might not want to hear from him.
“I called Mark after the Texas A&M game. If you’re a coach, when you lose, don’t call me and tell me it was good. I don’t want to hear that. If I see somebody on my phone and I know that’s what they’re going to try to do, I hit the ‘eat poop button.’ I’m not talking to you.
“So I text to Mark what I saw. That the first touchdown they scored was okay. Your defense I thought balled, but they were on the field for too long. It wasn’t your best game, and you still went to overtime with a chance to win. Incredible.”
Coach Cal is not the type of guy to endorse moral victories. However, he learned a lot about the football team and its brightest star, Benny Snell, from the loss.
“The best thing that came out of it was Benny. In basketball we call it touches. He didn’t get a whole lot of touches and he is like a Heisman candidate. Now the game ends, they lose, the last play was…okay. Benny, I can’t imagine what Benny did in the locker room but I know this: in front of the media he said everything the right way because he was thinking about his team. That is big. That is BIG when you’re a Heisman candidate and you don’t get the touches and the team loses because that kid wants a win. He knew if I had the ball — ‘give me the ball twice in that situation, I don’t care, let the linemen fall down’ — but he never said a word.
“I told Mark that. I said, ‘You guys are in a great place man.’ And I said, ‘Keep reminding everyone it’s taken you six years. That wasn’t a two-year turnover. It’s been six years.'”
In previous years, the Kentucky basketball team stole the football team’s thunder. Now Mark Stoops’ football team is invading UK basketball media day. What a wild time to be alive.