There will be a Louisville vs. Kentucky men’s basketball game in 2020, and it will feature no shortage of storylines.
Two weeks ago, Cardinal head coach Chris Mack said publicly that he wasn’t sure if the annual “Battle of the Bluegrass” game would take place because of the unique circumstances surrounding ... well, everything ... and a request that Kentucky wasn’t willing to entertain.
“I don’t know,” Mack said of playing UK. “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? But I recognize and we recognize the best rivalry 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 holds.”
This led to a public response from BBN front man John Calipari which doused the Commonwealth’s rivalry flames with a decent dose of gasoline.
“Chris and I have talked and he expressed his concerns,” Calipari said in a statement provided to 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.”
That leads us to Tuesday night, where out of the blue, we get this public message from Mack:
To Cardinals’ fans everywhere.... pic.twitter.com/vBMgnduWaD— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) September 29, 2020
Mack starts out by acknowledging the criticisms from the other side that he’s “afraid” or “chicken” to play Kentucky, and then sarcastically says that of course he wants to do whatever is best for Calipari.
Then the real show starts.
Here’s what Mack wants you to know about everything that’s gone on behind the scenes in trying to get this year’s game scheduled:
“Never mind the fact that we had a Dec. 12, mutually agreed upon date to play the game. Never mind the fact that they backed out of the 12th because they were returning from London on Dec. 6 where they were playing Michigan. They thought it was too close to the 12th. Never mind the fact that that Dec. 6 game got canceled. No trip to London. Can we play that game on the 12th? Never mind that they scheduled Notre Dame in lieu of playing us on the mutually agreed upon date of Dec. 12.
“Never mind the fact that they called ESPN and tried to change one of our ACC games without our knowledge or permission. Never mind the fact that coach Stoops and his football program at the University of Kentucky honored that request in football to move Louisville’s home game from 2020 to 2021. If you can do it in football, seems like you could do it in basketball. Never mind the fact that the University of Cincinnati asked us to do the exact same thing that we’re asking Kentucky to do, and we honored that request.”
So that’s ... a lot.
But there’s still a crescendo coming ...
“Listen, I don’t want to stand in the way of college basketball’s best rivalry,” Mack says near the end of the video, once again taking on the sarcastic tone he began with. “Whatever is most convenient for Coach Cal, we’ll do it. See you in the Yum Center. Go Cards.”
There’s no longer any dancing around it: College basketball’s most contentious rivalry is back.