Kentucky’s John Calipari finalizing deal to bolt for Arkansas in college basketball stunner

It was less than a month ago that Kentucky coach John Calipari was re-affirming his commitment to Wildcats fans, and now it seems that maybe it wasn’t as firm of a commitment as it seemed. 

The Arkansas coaching search took a surprising turn when multiple reports surfaced that linked Calipari to the vacant Razorbacks position. 

The legendary college basketball coach and Arkansas are finalizing a five-year deal for Calipari to take over as the program’s next head coach, ESPN reported late Sunday night.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari is reportedly finalizing a deal for the Arkansas job.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari is reportedly finalizing a deal for the Arkansas job. Getty Images

The deal is expected to be finished in the next 24 hours, according to the outlet.

School officials and Calipari have had discussions about the job, and CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander reported Calipari had informed Kentucky that he is negotiating with Arkansas. 

Calipari’s contract with Kentucky required him to inform the school if he discusses another job opportunity at a different school and a major Arkansas donor is “prepared to make a major commitment to bring Cal to Arkansas,” Norlander reported.

The news is a surprise twist for Calipari, who seemed like he planned to remain in Lexington despite another disappointing ending early in the NCAA Tournament. 

Despite bringing the school a national title in 2012 and leading them to Final Four appearances 2011, 2014 and 2015 and 12 NCAA Tournament appearances overall, the Wildcats faithful had become restless after two first-round knockouts. 

Kentucky had their season ended by No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in 2022 and No. 14 seed Oakland this year, leading to massive speculation over his future with the program before he and athletic director Mitch Barnhart confirmed that Calipari would be back for a 16th season. 

“That standard of national titles has been here from coach Rupp on,” Calipari said on his weekly radio program last month after the Wildcats were eliminated from the tournament.

“The only thing I am saying to all our fans. I’m going to work. That is a commitment that I give to the fans. I love it. This is what I want. This is it. Let’s come together and let’s do something.”

Calipari will not owe the school a buyout if he leaves his contract early — which runs through the 2028-29 season — and it helps Kentucky avoid having to him $33 million if they had fired him after this season. 

Arkansas is in search of a new coach to lead its program after Eric Musselman resigned last week to take over at USC. 


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