Chris Mack jabs John Calipari as Kentucky Wildcats-Louisville Cardinals rivalry escalates

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7:17 PM ET

  • Jeff BorzelloESPN Staff Writer

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    • Basketball recruiting insider.
    • Joined ESPN in 2014.
    • Graduate of University of Delaware.

Louisville men’s basketball coach Chris Mack fired back Tuesday at John Calipari’s assertion that the Cardinals don’t want to play Kentucky this season, releasing a video on Twitter that ended with him announcing the annual rivalry game indeed will be played.

“I keep getting asked, ‘Coach, are we playing the game? Are you scared? Are you a chicken? You won’t play Kentucky?'” Mack said in a video heavy with sarcasm. “As for the UK series, here’s the thing: I want to do what’s most convenient for John and his program.”

Mack then proceeded to go through the scheduling back-and-forth the two schools have had to plan this season’s game.

Mack said it originally was scheduled for Dec. 12, but Kentucky backed out because it was expected to return from London on Dec. 6 after playing Michigan there. The London game against the Wolverines ultimately was canceled, but Mack said Kentucky scheduled Notre Dame for Dec. 12 instead of playing Louisville on the original date.

Mack also accused Kentucky of trying to change one of Louisville’s ACC games without the Cardinals’ knowledge.

He added that Louisville asked Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops to change the schools’ football game that was scheduled to be played on the Cardinals’ home field to 2021, and Stoops acquiesced to that request.

“If you could do it in football, seems like you could do it in basketball,” Mack said.

He ended the video by saying Louisville will play the game against Kentucky this season.

“I don’t want to stand in the way of college basketball’s best rivalry. Whatever is most convenient for Coach Cal, we’ll do it,” Mack said. “See ya in the Yum! Center! Go Cards.”

Calipari was brief in his response, writing on Twitter later Tuesday: “See you December 26th. Can’t wait!”

See you December 26th. Can’t wait!

— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) September 30, 2020

Mack recently said he didn’t know if this season’s Wildcats-Cardinals game would be played, since it was scheduled to be held at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville — where there could be attendance restrictions because of COVID-19.

“Where is the equity of Kentucky coming here in front of no fans and then having to go back to Rupp Arena [in 2021-22] in front of 21,000 fans?” Mack said on “The Full Court Press” podcast.

Calipari responded by releasing a statement, making it clear he expected the game to be played this season in Louisville.

“Chris and I have talked and he expressed his concerns,” Calipari said. “While I understand the difficulty and the complications created by the pandemic, we are prepared to come to Louisville to play this season under the previously agreed upon terms, and we fully expect Louisville to honor the agreement with a return game to Rupp Arena next season.

“We are contracted to play Notre Dame and a Big 12 opponent for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge in Rupp Arena this season and we are honoring those contracts even if it is with little or no fans. It is no one’s fault we are in a pandemic. We cannot predict the future with this virus, whether that’s this December or next December. My hope is they are not trying to end this series because it is important for this state that we play.”

Calipari reiterated his desire to play the game during a videoconference Tuesday morning.

“I’m not gonna tell you what they’re thinking or what they’re doing. I just know that the terms of the contract, we go there and they come here next year,” he said. “How about, does anybody really know what this virus is going to do? I mean, what if we’re in next year and we’re in the same boat? Then we got them at home with no fans. We don’t know. This virus is running us. We are not running this virus. And so, you know, you’d have to talk to them. My hope is we’re playing the game this year, but we’re prepared if not.

“I think that game is good for our state. It should be played … I’m not telling any other program what they should or shouldn’t do.”

Kentucky is 2-0 against Louisville since Mack took over in 2018. The Wildcats are 11-2 against the Cardinals under Calipari.

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