On Monday, ESPN’s Paul Finebaum joined McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning to discuss this weekend’s drama between Kentucky head coaches John Calipari and Mark Stoops. He revealed his reaction to the comments from the coaches, as well as the response from AD Mitch Barnhart.
“At the end of all this, Calipari made a critical mistake. Mark Stoops sat there and said, ‘Do I be graceful about this, do I be a gentleman? Do I do what I’ve always done and turn the other cheek? Or do I punch back?’ He punched back and he put Calipari on the canvas. This is the first time in my life in talking about the University of Kentucky that you can legitimately say that the football coach … is more powerful than the basketball coach.
“This was such a grievous error. It wasn’t calculated to injure the football team but it just shows the desperation of Calipari. The first-round loss… the fact that he hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2015… haven’t won a national championship in more than 10 years, it’s getting to him … I interviewed him a few weeks ago in Destin and you could see it on his face.”
Finebaum: Barnhart ‘waited too long’
Following Calipari and Stoops’ disagreement over the state of Kentucky athletics, Barnhart weighed in on the situation. While noting that he keeps conversations between his coaches “within the family,” he doesn’t believe Calipari’s quote about Kentucky being a “basketball school” was productive in terms of laying a foundation for what Barnhart is calling generational leadership.
“This has been a public relations disaster and you can point to many different aspects of it,” Finebaum said.
“What he needed to do was get on it immediately and put an end to it. And instead, he went old-school AD. Listen, you guys know him, he’s considered the best athletic director in the SEC. But he’s still old school, meaning he’s not in touch with the minute-to-minute social media storm that was brewing out there. He waited too long and then, I think at the end, you saw some personal grievances thrown on top of the fire. It’s well known in Lexington that Calipari and Barnhart are not close friends. We saw that Saturday.”
Mark Stoops ‘done’ with football vs. basketball war
The Big Blue Civil War has only just begun, but Mark Stoops is trying to end it. Stoops addressed the situation publicly for the first time since John Calipari’s comments that UK was a “basketball school.”
During a press conference Saturday afternoon, Stoops said that he’s “done” with the situation and has addressed it with his players. Now, his number one focus is getting his team ready for the season opener on Sept. 3. He said nothing will derail the Wildcats this late into the offseason, especially drama right in their own backyard.
Still, Stoops found a second to throw in a back-handed comment. He said, “some may, but this program didn’t wake up on third base.” The football coach seemingly referencing the basketball program’s blue-blood status, while UK football has been a historic SEC bottom-feeder.
He also said he understands that the football team is just starting to build up their resume.
“I mean, I’m not in third grade,” Stoops said. “You know what I mean? We understand history. That’s great, I embrace and love it — the history of our basketball team. I’m proud of it, I love it. I didn’t have that history. We understand we’re creating it. I also know people want to win now so it’s my responsibility to get to the postseason and win.”
On3’s Griffin McVeigh contributed to this report.