Calipari: No neutral site for Louisville game

Kentucky coach John Calipari said Friday that he intends to lead his Wildcats into Louisville this season and not play their in-state rivalry game at a neutral site.

Cardinals coach Chris Mack said earlier this week that he because of the likelihood of limited or no fans in the stands, the game should be moved. Kentucky, he said, would have a competitive advantage in the 2021-22 rivalry game, scheduled to be played in Lexington, with the assumption that COVID-19 fears will have subsided and the Wildcats can pack Rupp Arena.

“Chris and I have talked and he expressed his concerns,” Calipari said in a statement issued Friday to the Courier Journal in Louisville. “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.”

The date for the 2020-21 game has not been set.

Speaking on “The Full Court Press” on Wednesday, Mack said moving the game would be fair, and he also said he wasn’t sure it would be played.

“Where is the equity of Kentucky coming here in front of no fans and then having to go back to Rupp Arena in front of 21,000 fans?” Mack said on the podcast. “But I recognize and we recognize, man, the best rivalry — I know I’m biased — in all of college basketball. If there was somehow we could do this at a neutral site again, that’s without talking to Kentucky and what their scheduling is.”

Calipari said the virus hasn’t been fair to anyone.

“It is no one’s fault we are in a pandemic,” he said. “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.”

Kentucky leads the all-time series between the two schools 37-16. Since Calipari took over the Wildcats before the 2009-10 season, Kentucky leads the series 11-2.

Mack is entering his third season as coach of the Cardinals. He has a 44-21 record during his short tenure in Louisville but has not beaten the Wildcats.