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UK naturally going low-key in scheduling; aims to play before largest hoops crowd ever

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
All in all, it's hard not to approve of how Calipari's lined up his team's schedule for the next two years. (US Presswire)

In my Wednesday post about the college coalition that's feebly ganged up on Kentucky and John Calipari, I debated opening the piece with, "I wonder how Calipari will react to this one?" before going with a straight lede.

Lo and behold, all but a few hours later, Calipari had some news to share about the scheduling arrangement for his team next season. It was all too perfect. In the morning, the COIA is blasting UK and imploring every program to refuse a neutral-site game with Kentucky out of fear it will lead to a path that will "professionalize" college basketball.

In the evening, it's learned Kentucky will play Baylor at Cowboys Stadium.

This was as much of a coincidence as one's desire for milk after downing five chocolate chip cookies.

Calipari is approaching nearly everything he does as a college basketball coach in a different way. He's releasing news via his own site, and because of this, he's actually mimicking the path that many have worried/predicted would be the preferred method for athletes disposing news and quotes. By using his site, Cal can release the info first and supply fans with a direct communication source. For him, it's extremely smart and tactical. There are maybe five other college basketball coaches who could operate like this, and none of them do (though Krzyzewski comes close).

In breaking the news -- yes, Cal broke his own news here -- he said he wants to "create experiences, not games" that "grandfathers and grandsons will be talking about 25 years from now."

We can have a debate eventually if this is the right approach (when does the spectacle become more about the spectacle than the team, and the 19-year-olds involved?), but at the very least Calipari keeps Kentucky and college basketball a topic in the offseason worth addressing beyond the fact that he's Calipari and it's Kentucky. It's now an open goal of Cal's to break the NCAA attendance record for a single game at that Baylor bill in Arlington in 2013, and that objective is something pretty grand.

I mean, you figure Baylor easily squeeze in 300, maybe 320 fans into Cowboys Stadium. That's leaving a cool 100,000 ducats on the shoulders of Wildcats fans. It's a challenge from Calipari to his fan base. And they respectfully, eagerly accept it. This is some sort of relationship.

Now, as for the scheduling, there's a lot to be excited about. In addition to the Kentucky-Baylor game, the really refreshing news: Kentucky and North Carolina will revive their series after a one-year hiatus, which is taking place next season Even better, when it returns, it will again be a home-and-home. Games on campuses, yeah! Calipari wants to alternate years when playing at Louisville and at North Carolina. So, it looks like this: If for the next six years Calipari is at Kentucky, the only legitimate, true road game the Wildcats will play each year will either be in Louisville or Chapel Hill.

I can live with that.

It gets better. The other coach well-known for his dogmatic non-conference scheduling practices (hey, Jim Boeheim wants in on this, too) is in talks with Calipari to give college basketball one of its most desired matchups.

I am currently in conversations with Coach K of Duke for a multi-year, neutral-based series that will be played around the country in the best facilities. The games would take place on the same weekend every year and would be THE GAME to watch. Obviously we're playing Duke this season in Atlanta in the second year of the Champions Classic, as well as Maryland in the brand new Barclays Center. We are playing Michigan State in Chicago in 2013-14, and we're working on finalizing an event that we hope to have in Lucas Oil Stadium that same year.

It's tactical. Always is with Calipari. He says it himself: the Champions Classic against Duke is taking place at the Georgia Dome, site of the same-year Final Four. That's also the case when the Baylor game happens, as college basketball's ultimate weekend later that season will be hosted by Cowboys Stadium.

And as for the Michigan State game? I'll let you take a wild guess as to where the 2015 Final Four is.

"Let me be clear," Calipari writes, "It is important that we play in at least one if not two football stadiums every year to prepare our players for NCAA Tournament venues. Not every program can play a regular-season game in a stadium like we can. The NCAA Tournament plays half its regional games and the entire Final Four in those venues. Who do you think will be in those domes and stadiums? It will be us. I'm convinced we would have won the title two seasons ago if we would have played in a dome during the regular season. Our guys weren't prepared for it."

That's a little bit of revisionist history and is easy for Calipari to say now, but whatever. Point is, it's practically become a responsibility for Kentucky to schedule itself like the program it is: the best, most well-known, most marketed, most enviable, most hated, most recognizable entity in college basketball. Outside of winning national titles, that's probably why Calipari is the best coach for his school and state. He understands the program's role while continually evolving his.

 
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