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Kentucky releases non-league schedule that includes exactly one interesting home game

Public relations is a tough business because it sometimes puts intelligent folks in a position to say or write ridiculous things in defense of, well, ridiculous things. Which brings me to the email that arrived this morning from the University of Kentucky announcing John Calipari's non-league basketball schedule.

It was, in part, headlined as follows:

Wildcats face one of nation's toughest schedules again

Um, no.

But they will face Samford again!

Kentucky increased season-ticket prices heading into this season, and the fans who hoped there'd be a correlation between the cost of a seat and the quality of the games on the court are going to be disappointed. Because there isn't one. The only power-conference program that'll visit Rupp in the non-league portion of the schedule is Baylor, meaning the most competitive game besides that game that'll be played in the building prior to SEC teams visiting will likely be the intrasquad scrimmage at the end of Oct. 12's Big Blue Madness.

And that's not even a joke.

The Wildcats will play Maryland in Brooklyn, Duke in Atlanta, Notre Dame in South Bend and Louisville in Louisville. But the non-league home schedule -- i.e., the games UK season-ticket holders actually pay to witness -- is comprised of games against Lafayette, Morehead State, Long Island, Samford, Portland, Lipscomb, Marshall, Eastern Michigan and Baylor. That's a total of three non-league games against teams ranked in the CBSSports.com preseason Top 25 (and one), just one of which will be played inside Rupp.

Good luck getting Jay-Z to Lexington this season.

Or even Vanilla Ice.

(Note: I recognize typing the above two sentences will probably push Calipari to make sure Jay-Z does a pregame concert before the Portland tilt, and I realize he's capable of pulling off something like that because he's incredible at his job. But you get the point. Anyway ...)

But what does Calipari care?

The truth is that he knows he can schedule this way because his fans are intense and will show up no matter what. His goal is to fill the building and win a lot, and this combination will still do the first while making the second simple unless Orlando suddenly trades Dwight Howard to Eastern Michigan, which seems unlikely. The approach wouldn't work for lots of programs because lots of fanbases would refuse to pay big money to spend November and December watching mismatches. But Kentucky is not like lots of programs. It's a special and insane place. So even though some of the diehards are disappointed by the release -- "What a snoozefest for Rupp this year," wrote one poster on a message board. "Probably the worst home [non-conference] schedule in Rupp history," added another, -- the idea that they'll protest by not showing up is silly.

They'll be there every game regardless -- 24,000 strong.

That's why Calipari schedules like this.

Because he can.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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