Idea for men's-women's basketball double-header between Kentucky and Baylor was born over dinner

jsmith3@herald-leader.comDecember 4, 2013 

  • Friday

    No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Baylor

    When: 7:30 p.m.

    Where: Arlington, Texas

    Records: Kentucky 8-0, Baylor 7-0

    TV: None

Out of some fine dining came a dandy idea.

John Calipari and Kim Mulkey were part of an annual dinner celebrating the NCAA Tournament championship coaches and they got to chatting.

Within hours of the chat, Friday's Kentucky-Baylor doubleheader, featuring the men's and women's teams at an NFL stadium, was born.

"He had the idea and he called me .... and I agreed in about 15 seconds," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said of John Calipari. "There wasn't a lot of back-and-forth on it. It's a great way to showcase the University of Kentucky, bring a lot of great attention to our university and certainly to our program, to be attached to this kind of high-profile event, it's exciting."

The doubleheader, on Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be a matchup of four top 25 teams, including two unbeaten, top 10 teams on the women's side in No. 5 UK and No. 9 Baylor.

Mitchell started his news conference on Wednesday with a tip of the cap to Calipari, who started the ball rolling on the event at the Winged Foot Dinner in New York in May of 2012 where he was honored with the Bears' Mulkey.

"It's such a unique opportunity, and you just don't see it done," Mitchell said. "You don't see anything like this done, really, anywhere in the country."

Calipari could've just done the game against Baylor at the stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play and it would've been plenty interesting, Mitchell said.

But the Kentucky men's coach, who works across the hall at the Joe Craft Center, wanted to make it even bigger.

"This is not just about a basketball program, this athletic department," Calipari offered. "It's about a lot of athletes, from all the different sports. Anywhere we can come together and help each other, it's good."

Calipari seemed excited about the event.

"This should be a good trip," he said. "I mean, (our programs are) following each other, we're trying to help each other. I stop in his office, he stops in my office. I stop in his practice, he stops in my practice."

The two teams will leave Lexington together for Dallas on Thursday, stay at the same hotel and have dinner together at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

"That was one of the things when it was first proposed that John said he wanted to do was everybody travel together and make it a great experience, a unique experience, a one-of-a-kind type deal," Mitchell said. "So it's a lot of fun, it's very, very unique, it's very exciting, and we're just very appreciative to be a part of it."

At many national events, like the NCAA Tournament, Mitchell is frequently asked about his relationship with Calipari and whether the women's program feels overshadowed by the decades of basketball dominance on the men's side.

That's not how Mitchell looks at it.

"In college basketball what our men's program has done over more than a century now is they've just created an incredible brand that's as recognizable as any sports brand in the world," he said. "I just have always thought you're silly if you don't try to do everything you can to be a part of that."

Mitchell's players are excited, too.

Jennifer O'Neill said she never dreamed she'd get to play in an NFL stadium in her career.

"It's amazing that Coach Cal got this set up," the UK point guard said. "I'm thankful Coach Cal is here and could get something like this worked out. "

Calipari joked at his own news conference on Wednesday that he tried to make it a tripleheader with football, too.

Apparently UK Coach Mark Stoops wasn't a huge fan of adding ninth-ranked Baylor to the Cats' jam-packed football schedule quite yet.

"And I told the story to Mark Stoops, about why don't we do all three? And he told — Matthew said, 'Why don't you do Baylor and Notre Dame with us?' — and (Stoops) said, 'How about we do Connecticut?'"

Notes

■ The women's game between UK and Baylor, which previously had not been picked up for any type of broadcast, will be available on ESPN3.com, Kentucky officials said on Wednesday night.

■ Baylor's women will be back on the Kentucky schedule again in 2014 when the Bears will face the Cats at Rupp Arena, a UK official confirmed on Wednesday.

NEXT GAME

No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Baylor

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Arlington, Texas

Records: Kentucky 8-0, Baylor 7-0

TV: None

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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