John Calipari at the center of rumors that could change the face of SEC basketball

Arkansas is reportedly "zeroing in" on John Calipari to replace Eric Musselman after the former Razorbacks head coach left for USC. Kentucky has yet to confirm the reports.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: 11:20 PM ET - Per Yahoo Sports' Ross Dellenger and ESPN's Pete Thamel, the deal sending Calipari to Arkansas is now done.

When former USC head coach Andy Enfield left USC for SMU, it set the coaching carousel into motion, but now that move could have a profound impact on the SEC. Eric Musselman left Arkansas to replace Enfield at USC and returned to California, which left a vacuum in Fayetteville. Now, reporters have begun to claim that the Razorbacks are “zeroing in on John Calipari as their next head coach. 

After another disappointing early-round tournament exit, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart reaffirmed his faith in Coach Cal, who is under contract through 2029. 

Still, if he stays in Lexington, Calipari will be on shaky ground next year. With Antonio Reeves, Reed Sheppard, and Rob Dillingham all likely heading to professional basketball, Calipari will need to reload and if it goes wrong, he could be out by the end of next season, so stability and a fresh start at a non-blue blood program could be appealing to the 65-year-old head coach. 

It’s clear that Arkansas is interested in hiring Calipari, and now it’s not just Arkansas reporters who are claiming that Calipari also has interest in the potential move. 

Over his five seasons in Fayetteville, Musselman took Arkansas to the NCAA Tournament three times and gave the program access to recruits that are not typically options for the program that last made the Final Four in 1995. However, this past season, things deteriorated and the Razorbacks missed the tournament and finished 16-17. 

Calipari would elevate the status of Arkansas basketball, and Barnhart may not hate to get out from under his “lifetime contract,” as it’s often been termed. Calipari has won just one NCAA Tournament game since Kentucky’s run to the Elite Eight in 2019. 

Still, before Big Blue Nation either mourns the loss or celebrates a fresh start, there has yet to be a confirmation from Kentucky or Calipari. Until that happens, this is just a rumor, but a monumental one that if true would shift the landscape of college basketball and leave Kentucky scrambling to find a replacement. 

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