Syndication: The Courier-Journal

John Calipari and Mark Stoops haven't always seen eye to eye, but the Kentucky football coach had kind words for Calipari after the latter announced his exit from Lexington, Kentucky to take the head coaching job at Arkansas. Stoops took to social media to share a brief message of respect for his coaching peer on Wednesday. 

"I will like to wish [John Calipari] and his family well in their new endeavor," Stoops tweeted. "We spent 11 years working together and I really appreciate all they did for UK and the Commonwealth." 

Calipari's departure ends what had quietly become a cold war in the Kentucky athletic department as the two high-profile coaches vied for resources. Stoops has overseen a period of unprecedented success for Kentucky football. After a three-year build, Stoops has made bowl games in eight consecutive seasons with a 61-41 overall record during that time. 

In August 2022, Calipari made public demands for a new practice and athletic facility in the middle of campus. In his statement, he referred to Kentucky as a "basketball school." 

"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." 

Stoops quickly responded with a retort, pointing out that his program was riding four straight postseason wins at the time. 

"I don't care about what anybody says about their program. That's not my business, it's not my lane," Stoops said in 2022. "But when you start talking about our program and others that we compete against ... I don't do that. I stay in my lane. That's in defense of my players, in defense of the work we've done. Believe me, we want to continue to push. But don't demean or distract from the hard work and dedication and commitment that people have done to get to this point.

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart tried to cool the situation, telling reporters, "we aren't a football school, we aren't a basketball school, we are both of these and so much more." The tensions never fully cooled between the two parties. 

The dynamic came to a head after the 2023 season. Stoops entered deep negotiations with Texas A&M for their vacant head coach position and appeared set to accept the job. However, the Aggies suddenly reversed course, moving away from Stoops and settling on Duke's Mike Elko instead. Then-Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said at the introductory press conference that Stoops, nor any other candidate, was offered the job. 

In a prepared statement, Stoops said he chose to remain at Kentucky after celebrating an upset victory over Louisville. Whatever the reason, Stoops is now the last man standing in the battle over Kentucky's athletic department.