A lot of folks that are normally quite busy have some extra time on their hands right now.
As a result, could the long overdue renewal of the Indiana / Kentucky college basketball series be solved during the COVID-19 pandemic? A key figure from the Kentucky side and perhaps IU’s best known basketball fan hashed it out on Monday.
Legendary IU alum and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spoke with Kentucky head coach John Calipari about how to renew the series on a Facebook conversation today.
Well known for making deals on his “Shark Tank” television show, Cuban started the conversation.
“Yes, I am negotiating this (the renewal of the series) right now Cal,” Cuban said.
“How about we play it in your building (Dallas’ American Airlines arena),” Calipari offered first, to which Cuban replied “Done” perhaps thinking that Calipari was referring to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
“I offered two years in Indianapolis, and they (IU) said no,” Calipari said in reference to prior failed negotiations since the series ended in 2011.
“You know I can’t speak for Fred (Glass) or now whoever is taking his place (new IU AD Scott Dolson), but with all this stuff going on I think close proximity is going to be important so we don’t have to get in planes,” Cuban said. “I say we just flip a coin (between Bloomington and Lexington).”
Calipari hasn’t hidden the fact that he isn’t interested in playing the series on campus, and he quickly reverted back to his Dallas idea.
“Maybe we do something for charity in your building (in Dallas),” Calipari replied.
But as he often does, Cuban was thinking big. The 1981 IU graduate envisioned the renewal of the IU / Kentucky series serving as the reintroduction of college sports after the pandemic.
“Cal I’m talking about now, as we transition out of this (pandemic), we need to get those first games in, and Lexington and Bloomington are so close, we flip a coin, decide where the game is played that way, we get on buses, we take the buses right to whichever arena, and we throw the ball up with or without fans, made for television,” Cuban said. “If the NCAA doesn’t want to go for it, I’ll figure it out. I’ll get us TV partner, you have your TV partners, IU has theirs. Let’s just do this. Let’s just be that first game coming out for college athletics and get the ball rolling.”
It has been speculated that Calipari’s aversion to playing on campus in Bloomington stems from the IU crowd storming the court after a memorable buzzer beater by Christian Watford in 2011 — the last regular season meeting between the schools.
Calipari seemed more than willing to consider a return to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall along the terms laid out by Cuban. Specifically — no fans.
“Without fans I’m in,” Calipari said.
But no sooner than the Kentucky head coach agreed, he seemed to backtrack as he recalled the respective rosters returning for IU and Kentucky for the 2020-21 season.
Calipari was surprisingly familiar with the details of IU’s roster next season.
“They’re going to be really good,” Calipari said of Indiana. “You know I lost my whole team. Is that why you’re doing this?
“They don’t even have a scholarship to give out. They’ve got all 13 back.”
Was Calipari also well aware of Indiana’s roster when the series came to a halt?
Perhaps by coincidence or possibly not, the series ended before the 2012-13 campaign when Indiana was the preseason No. 1 team and Kentucky went on that season to lose in the first round of the NIT to Robert Morris.
Calipari and Cuban discussed a wide range of additional topics mainly centering around how the pandemic is impacting the NCAA/NBA calendar and how college basketball could be changed going forward.
You can watch the full discussion between Cuban and Calipari here.
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