John Calipari Leaving Kentucky to Become New Head Coach at Arkansas

By Dan Hope on April 7, 2024 at 11:38 pm
John Calipari
Christopher Hanewinckel – USA TODAY Sports

John Calipari is leaving Kentucky for Arkansas.

After 15 years coaching the Wildcats, Calipari is leaving Lexington to become the new head coach at Arkansas, according to multiple reports.

Calipari will replace Eric Musselman, who left Arkansas on Thursday to become the head coach at USC. According to Arkansas reporter Trey Schaap, Calipari will be paid $8 million per year by Arkansas – less than the $8.5 million he made this past season at Kentucky.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander reported that Calipari has a close relationship with the Tyson family (of Tyson Foods), which is a major donor to Arkansas athletics.

Per Norlander, Calipari had been exploring the possibility of leaving Kentucky since February and was also interested in Ohio State’s head coaching vacancy before the Buckeyes hired Jake Diebler.

During the height of his tenure at Kentucky, the thought of Calipari leaving the Wildcats for an SEC rival would have seemed unfathomable. In his first 10 years at Kentucky, Calipari led the Wildcats to a national championship, four Final Fours and seven Elite Eights, restoring the program’s status as one of college basketball’s blue bloods.

However, since Calipari signed what was described as a “lifetime” contract extension with Kentucky in 2019, the Wildcats’ results had declined. Over the past five years, Kentucky failed to make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament once, suffering two first-round losses in the past three years, including a defeat at the hands of No. 14 seed Oakland this year.

The Wildcats’ most recent postseason failure led to speculation that Calipari could be fired, but Kentucky ultimately opted not to do so as it would have owed Calipari a $33 million buyout. With Calipari’s departure, Kentucky is no longer on the hook for any of that money, but it is now in the market for a new head coach for the first time since 2009.

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