Kentucky gets regal lineup for non-conference schedule next season

jtipton@herald-leader.comMay 7, 2014 

A king-size schedule for a king-size roster could describe Kentucky's non-conference schedule next basketball season.

In addition to games against traditional rivals Louisville and North Carolina, Kentucky will also play Texas and UCLA, it was announced Wednesday.

UK is also expected to play Kansas in the Champions Classic and Providence to finish a two-game contract.

With nine McDonald's All-Americans, plus 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein expected on the roster, Kentucky is widely seen as the preseason No. 1 team going into next season.

Kentucky will play UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago next December, the network announced. The game will feature the programs with the two most NCAA Tournament championships: 11 for UCLA and eight for Kentucky.

The event, a three-year round-robin series of doubleheaders, will feature North Carolina and Ohio State as well as UK and UCLA.

"This event will feature programs that represent 25 national championships, which is remarkable," UK Coach John Calipari said in a statement. "Not only that, some of the best fan bases in college basketball will have the opportunity to see us play in three major venues against some of the top programs in the country. We're excited to be part of an event of this caliber for the next three seasons."

The event debuts at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 20. North Carolina will play Ohio State at 1 p.m. EDT followed by Kentucky against UCLA at about 3:30 p.m. EDT.

The CBS Sports Classic moves to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.. on Dec. 19, 2015. Kentucky will play Ohio State, and North Carolina will play UCLA.

It finishes the three-year run in Las Vegas on Dec. 16, 2016. Kentucky will play North Carolina, and Ohio State will play UCLA.

Besides combining for the 25 national championships, these four schools are among the winningest college basketball programs. UK has won more games than any other college program.

Kentucky will play Texas in Rupp Arena on Dec. 5 as part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge, the leagues announced. The teams have played only once previously, with UK winning 86-61 in the 1993 Maui Invitational.

Texas had a 24-11 record this past season with no seniors on its roster.

The other marquee game in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge on Dec. 5 will be Florida at Kansas.

Other matchups are Auburn at Texas Tech, Arkansas at Iowa State, LSU at West Virginia, Baylor at Vanderbilt, TCU at Mississippi, Missouri at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State at South Carolina and Kansas State at Tennessee.

Spoils of victory

For two University of Kentucky assistant coaches, the spoils of victory include a contract extension and pay raise.

Assistant coach Kenny Payne signed a new two-year deal worth $500,000 annually plus incentives and was promoted to associate head coach, UK announced Wednesday. Payne, who just completed his fourth season on the UK staff, had been making $350,000.

Assistant coach John Robic, who came to UK with John Calipari in 2009, also signed a new two-year deal. His annual salary will rise from $300,000 to $375,000.

The announcement of new contracts and pay raises came exactly a month after Kentucky's memorable advancement to the NCAA Tournament championship game, where UK lost to Connecticut.

"There's not a better partner to work with to help these young men achieve their dreams," Calipari said of Payne in a statement released by UK. "His feel for the game and ability to develop players is second to none. I have all the confidence in the world that Kenny will make a great head coach someday. But we're ecstatic to have him as a part of our staff as associate head coach for the near future."

Robic just finished his 17th season as a member of Calipari's staff, an association that began at UMass in the 1988-89 season.

"No one knows me better and knows what I need to be prepared to coach a game than John," Calipari said of Robic in a statement. "He's been a loyal friend who has helped me build three different programs. He's as good as they get."

In Calipari's five seasons as coach, Kentucky has a 152-37 won-loss record. UK won the 2012 NCAA Tournament championship and advanced to three Final Fours.

In that time, 17 players have been drafted by the NBA. Julius Randle and James Young are expected to join that list at this year's NBA Draft.

Also, every UK senior has graduated.

The contracts for Payne and Robic no longer include incentive bonuses for on-court success. Previously, the contracts called for bonuses if Kentucky won the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship ($5,000 for Payne, $2,500 for Robic), received a bid for the NCAA Tournament (one month's salary), advanced to the Final Four (two months' salary) and won a national championship (one month's salary). Payne also could have received $5,000 if UK won the SEC Tournament and another $5,000 if the Cats were in the top 20 of The Associated Press's final poll.

Deputy Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy said that the absence of bonuses linked to on-court success was part of the contract negotiations. The absence did not reflect a new attitude about such bonuses by UK or the athletic department, Peevy said.

Calipari's contract calls for several such bonuses. For example, $50,000 if UK wins the SEC regular-season championship, $50,000 for winning the SEC Tournament, $100,000 for advancing to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, $175,000 for advancing to the Final Four and $375,000 for winning the NCAA Tournament.

Payne and Robic will continue to receive $5,000 bonuses should the UK team have an Academic Progress Rate score of .950 or better.

In addition to Payne's and Robic's extensions, UK announced the hiring of new assistant Barry Rohrssen (pronounced Roar-son) last week to complete the staff. Rohrssen agreed to a two-year deal that will pay him $375,000 annually.

Rohrssen takes the place of Orlando Antigua, whose salary last season was $275,000.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: jtipton@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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