A passionate Mark Stoops defended the Kentucky football program on Saturday after comments earlier in the week from men’s basketball coach John Calipari in which he called the university a “basketball school.”
Stoops responded immediately on Thursday, tweeting, “Basketball school? I thought we competed in the SEC?”
He spoke publicly for the first time on Saturday following practice, saying his responsibility is to prepare the team and that “we won’t be derailed.”
“When you start talking about my program and others that we compete against — me, I don’t do that,” Stoops said. “I stay in my lane. So that’s in defense of my players, in defense of the work that we’ve done. And believe me, we want to continue to push. But don’t demean or distract from the hard work and the dedication and the commitment that people have done to get to this point. I don’t need to apologize for that, and I won’t.”
Stoops went on to say that Kentucky football “wasn’t born on third base.”
“We understand history,” he said. “That’s great. I embrace it and love it, the history of our basketball. I’m proud of it. I love it. I didn’t have that history. We’re creating it.”
Stoops said he has not spoken to Calipari since Calipari was quoted in The Athletic. However, Calipari addressed the situation for the first time in a tweet shortly after Stoops spoke on Saturday.
“I was told about comments Mark Stoops made in his press conference,” the tweet said. “I reached out to Mark Thursday & will try again. Comparing our athletic dept. to others was my bad. I have supported Mark & the football team through good and bad. I will continue to support them & cheer them on.”
I was told about comments Mark Stoops made in his press conference. I reached out to Mark Thursday & will try again. Comparing our athletic dept. to others was my bad. I have supported Mark & the football team through good and bad. I will continue to support them & cheer them on.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) August 13, 2022
Before Stoops’ arrival in 2013, Kentucky was a perennial SEC doormat. It had just fired Joker Phillips after a 2-10 season and hadn’t won more than eight games in a season since 1984.
After a steady build his first three seasons, Stoops has led Kentucky to new heights, including four bowl wins and a pair of 10-win seasons.
Stoops, who received a new contract in December, said he wouldn’t let bickering “derail” the program as it prepares to open the season against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 3.
“We’re not concerned,” he said. “I’m not concerned with anybody outside of our building. At all. And I say that with no disrespect at all. I work hard — we work hard — to make our fans proud.”
Calipari’s comments were related to a new basketball facility he has been seeking the go-ahead to build.
Kentucky football received approval to renovate its football facility in February.
“This is a basketball school. It’s always been that,” Calipari told The Athletic. “Alabama is a football school. So is Georgia. I mean, they are. No disrespect to our football team. I hope they win 10 games and go to bowls. At the end of the day, that makes my job easier and it makes the job of all of us easier. But this is a basketball school. And so we need to keep moving in that direction and keep doing what we’re doing.”