Mike Woodson’s relationships with the head coaches at Louisville and Kentucky give the revival of the cross-border rivalries hope, one more than the other.
The now second-year IU head coach is good friends with both new Louisville coach Kenny Payne along with Kentucky’s John Calipari. And while neither the Cardinals or Wildcats are expected to appear on the upcoming season’s schedule, there’s a chance for 2023-24 — at least for one of them.
Woodson has known Payne for a long time, and they were both assistant coaches with the New York Knicks during the 2020-21 season. Payne was just hired at Louisville in March, and Woodson has already put in the scheduling request.
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Kenny and their AD and he promised me something in two years,” Woodson said on Wednesday evening at an alumni event in Borden, Ind. “Once Kenny got up and going, that we could possibly get — you know, I’ll take that all day long because I know it to be a competitive game.”
Indiana leads the all-time series with Louisville 11-9, with the most recent meeting coming in 2018, an IU win in Bloomington.
Woodson expects Payne to not only revive the series with Indiana, but also get the Louisville program humming again.
“I’ve known Kenny for many, many years, and he finally got his big break to come back home to Louisville where he played,” Woodson said. “I think he’s going to do great things there because he’s a competitive guy and he knows the recruiting game.”
Payne learned the recruiting game at Oregon where he sat on the bench with current IU assistant Yasir Rosemond, and then also at Kentucky under Calipari, where he worked as an assistant for 10 years before heading to the Knicks.
The IU faithful in the crowd jeered when Woodson said he was friends with Calipari.
“When I took the job, I called Cal about the Kentucky game, and I wanted it the old way, where you go to Bloomington and we go to Lexington,” Woodson said. “He doesn’t want any part of that.”
Woodson then turned to IU Athletics Director Scott Dolson.
“Scott, we’ve got to get this done,” Woodson said. “We want Kentucky.”
As for the 2022-23 schedule, Woodson said he did not yet know who IU would be playing in connection with the Big Ten / ACC Challenge. Those matchups are typically announced in June.
So far, the games for next season that have become public are Kennesaw State, Kansas and Arizona.
The Kansas game falls on the weekend of the now defunct Crossroads Classic, while the Arizona game is expected to be held on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas.
“Kansas, Arizona are two great teams that will be competing at the end (of the season) when it’s all said and done,” Woodson said. “We’ll see what we’re made of when we face those two teams because they’ll be pretty good.”
The Hoosiers may also play a Big East team in the 2022 Gavitt Games, and they are expected to play 20 Big Ten games including two before January.
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