ESPN College GameDay Photo Credit: ESPN College GameDay

Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari is under fire after Thursday night’s upset loss to No. 14 seed Oakland, but the cast of ESPN College GameDay had his back on Saturday.

GameDay host Rece Davis and analysts Seth Greenberg, Jay Williams, and Jay Bilas all spoke out to defend Calipari in a spirited discussion, with all of them pitching Calipari’s case amid growing criticism.

Kentucky lost for the fourth time in its last five NCAA games, an unforgivable sin at a program that’s traditionally a perennial national championship contender.

The GameDay cast acknowledged those recent postseason collapses have riled the fan base, but they all argued that’s not a reason to dismiss Calipari, who has 410 wins and a .769 winning percentage in 15 seasons. Greenberg and Bilas even called the “fire Calipari” movement “absurd.”

“I think frankly the issue is more so the relationship Cal has with his AD and the fan base,” Williams said, referring to Calipari’s strained relationship with AD Mitch Barnhart. “I think that’s what’s driving all this in my opinion. … it feels like it’s way bigger than basketball. I know we joked around about it, but every game this year that they lose, Cal is trending — ‘Fire Cal.’

“There is a real head hunt. I don’t think (Calipari’s) going anywhere, because the buyout is going to be too much.”

“Even so, there are only two people on the planet who can coach Kentucky — it’s Calipari and Pitino,” Davis interjected, mentioning former Wildcats coach Rick Pitino, now at St. John’s. “They shouldn’t fire John Calipari, that’s ridiculous.”

“That is absurd,” Greenberg said, of the calls to fire Calipari. “Mitch needs to come together with him, in front of people, and say, ‘We’re in this thing together.'”

Greenberg then went on to say that Kentucky, which has been relying more on younger players in recent years, has been hurt by that inexperience.

“To me, young teams aren’t as tough, they’re not as physical, they melt on screens, they’re not as consistent,” Greenberg said. “Look, college basketball has changed. The culture of college basketball has changed. … A good majority in the last five years, the teams that win and advance deep into the NCAA Tournament are older teams that are not relying on two, three, four and five freshman. That is a fact. It’s not debatable, they’re older, more mature teams.”

“Kentucky had experience, and some talent … but it wasn’t good enough,” Bilas said.


About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.