November 29, 2011
Do the Wildcats absorb the revenue hit of playing one less home game per year? Or do they eliminate one of their annual non-conference rivalry games against Louisville, North Carolina or Indiana in favor of a cash-strapped mid-major that will play a guarantee game at Rupp Arena?
Coach John Calipari asked fans on his official website which annual non-conference rivalry they could live without, though it's his contention that such a move would be to prevent over-scheduling rather than to avoid a revenue loss. Seventy percent have voted to eliminate Indiana if there was no other choice, compared to 22 percent for North Carolina and eight percent for Louisville.
It would be a shame to see any of these three series disappear in favor of a league game against Texas A&M or Missouri, but it's understandable that Kentucky is considering this possibility.
In 2006, I was told Kentucky collects $450,000 per home game in ticket revenue alone, a number that has surely increased since then and doesn't even factor in money from parking, food and merchandise sales. Furthermore, between Kentucky's commitments to the SEC-Big East Challenge and the Champions Classic, Calipari makes a legit argument that future schedules could get daunting in a hurry.
There's no way Kentucky would be foolish enough to cancel its series with in-state foe Louisville because that rivalry may be college basketball's best aside from North Carolina and Duke. That leaves either the series with the Tar Heels that dates back to 2001 or the series with Indiana that goes back far longer.
Although the rivalry with North Carolina lacks the history of the other two, the Tar Heels' status as a perennial top five team makes them more valuable to Kentucky than rebuilding Indiana at this point. The best-case scenario would be for Kentucky to find a way to keep all three games going, but it's the matchup with the Hoosiers that appears to be the most likely casualty.