By LARRY VAUGHT
When Kentucky opens the season Nov. 5 against Michigan State in the Champions Classic, Kentucky will have had exhibition games against Georgetown College and Kentucky State — two in-state teams happy to get the cash for playing UK but not exactly the caliber of a team like Michigan State.
The Spartans, though, have had a closed scrimmage against Gonzaga, an annual top 10 team and Final Four contender, to help prepare them for UK.
So would Kentucky coach John Calipari like to have a scrimmage against a big opponent — Louisville and Ohio State also scrimmaged each other recently — rather than exhibition games against overmatched foes.
As usual, it took Calipari a bit to get to the answer Friday.
“There’s two things that I’m trying to push in college basketball: One of them is playing in August and making it like spring football. Spending 10 days, two weeks and let each of us get five or six days during that period of time to practice and maybe play games and play games against each other like we’re doing in these first scrimmages, but sell them and let them be on TV. Do them on weekends so you’re not missing class. Whoever travels, their expenses are paid for by the other team,” Calipari said.
“Now you have content for August for the SEC Network and now all of the other Power Fives have networks. I think on a lot of fronts it would be good.”
What about the scrimmages?
“The issue for us of doing that scrimmage is solely money. I’d like to scrimmage versus having two exhibitions. But I also have the feel of what the athletic department needs and if they ever said, ‘Hey, we’re good because we have an extra home game and if you want to do it we would do it,’” Calipari said.
Calipari says the money UK would lose if it dropped a money-making exhibition game like the one with Georgetown College Saturday for scrimmage with a team like Gonzaga or Ohio State wouldn’t hurt UK basketball. But it would likely hurt another sport or sports at UK.
“Let’s say it’s a million dollars (in revenue from an exhibition game). Well, it’s coming from something. So, is it coming from swimming? Is it coming from the volleyball team? Where is it coming from? Baseball? It’s coming from something,” Calipari said.
“I get it and if we weren’t hurting anything to go play an exhibition game –- most teams don’t make what we do on a home game. They may have a building where they make very little on a home game, where that’s not the case with us.”