This week, Louisville head coach Chris Mack said he was unsure about the status of the Kentucky game, noting that it wouldn’t be fair for the Wildcats to come to town with zero fans this year, followed by a sold-out matchup in Lexington the year after.
“I don’t know [if the Kentucky game will happen,” Mack said on “Full Court Press with Fanta and Adams,” a college basketball podcast out of Cleveland. “Where is the equity of Kentucky coming here in front of no fans, and then having to go to Rupp Arena in front of 21,000 fans? We recognize that it’s the best rivalry – I know I’m biased – in all of college basketball.”
Mack then noted that he would be up for a neutral site game this year before continuing the normal home-and-home schedule moving forward.
“If there is somehow we could do this at a neutral site? Again, that’s without talking to Kentucky and [seeing] what their schedule holds.”
In response to the comments, UK head coach John Calipari said the rivalry matchup will remain as scheduled, honoring the original agreement.
“Chris and I have talked and he expressed his concerns,” Calipari said, via Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal. “While I understand the difficulty and the complications created by the 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 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.”
In a follow-up statement to the Courier-Journal, Mack doubled down on his desire for a neutral site matchup this season, again bringing up equity.
“It takes two to tango,” Mack said. “We want to play the game. They seem to want to play on their terms. 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.”
Back in August, Calipari joined ESPN Radio’s new morning show, Keyshawn, J-Will & Zubin, to talk all things college basketball, where he specifically addressed “equity” this season.
“When you talk about competitive equity, there’s not gonna be any. There’s not,” Calipari said. “We can’t worry about, “So and so played more league games than us,” or “Why is our schedule harder than theirs?” Let’s just play. There’s not gonna be competitive equity. This is about one term: survival.”
Will either side budge?