Kentucky mens basketball announces six-year schedule deal with Gonzaga


Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari coaches his team from the sidelines during the UK vs. Miles College exhibition basketball game on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 80-71. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball announced a six-year scheduling contract with Gonzaga on Thursday, furthering the known deal for a home-and-home that was announced earlier this year.

The Bulldogs are scheduled to “host” Kentucky inside Spokane Arena this November, which created controversy with the original two-game series being referred to as a “home-and-home”.

Many fans felt cheated that, while it is a five-minute drive from Gonzaga’s campus, Spokane Arena is not the home arena of the Bulldogs, with that honor going to the McCarthey Athletic Center, also dubbed “The Kennel.”

The matchup for the 2022-2023 season is slated for Nov. 20, wedged in between two UK home games against North Florida and South Carolina State.

The Bulldogs are then scheduled to travel to Rupp Arena in 2023 which, while also not on the campus of the University of Kentucky, is the sole home arena of the Wildcats, the main sticking point in the initial controversy, which was only made worse when Kentucky referred to the 2022 matchup as a true road game in its schedule reveal.

While these initial matchups were the only games fans were privy to prior to the announcement, contracts were being signed for four more meetings between the two programs, both of whom are currently fighting for preseason No. 1 overall this year.

Per the announcement, the third meeting between the programs, scheduled for 2024, will take place in Seattle, Washington, taking place at a neutral site.

In 2025 the teams will face off in Nashville, Tennessee, continuing the theme of a neutral game in a big city near one of the two programs.

No official details have been given for the neutral site games in regard to arenas or dates.

The Zags travel back to Lexington in 2026, playing their second game inside Rupp Arena before, in a much-anticipated move, the Wildcats travel back to Spokane in 2027, this time facing the Bulldogs in “The Kennel.”

“This is something Coach Calipari and I have been working on for some time,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few told UK Athletics. “It’s an exciting thing for both programs, both schools, both fan bases, and all of college basketball. Instead of a two-year thing, this gives everyone something to put on their calendar and look forward to over the next six seasons.”

The announcement earned the approval of many Wildcat fans, with Kentucky head coach John Calipari having faced criticism in prior seasons for what many felt were “weak” out-of-conference schedules.

“I am so excited that we have finalized this series,” Calipari told UK Athletics. “Mark is a great friend and what he has done at Gonzaga to build them into one of the premier programs in our sport is incredible. The mindset I have when I put together our schedule here at Kentucky is that we want to always challenge ourselves by competing with the best teams we can find and generate some marquee home games for the best fans in the country. We have done that with Gonzaga, and I look forward to competing with them the next six seasons.”

Calipari also confirmed that the Wildcats will host Michigan next season, with the pair facing off in London, England, this season, bringing two heavy-hitting matchups to Lexington for the 2023-2024 season.

He also announced via Twitter that Kentucky will face North Carolina in the annual CBS Sports Classic, facing UCLA this season, an unannounced opponent in the annual Champions Classic, facing Michigan State this season, at neutral sites and road games against a Big 12 opponent for the Big 12/SEC challenge, this year hosting Kansas, and Louisville.

Also, while unconfirmed, a report from Kyle Tucker of The Athletic suggested Calipari reached out to North Carolina with interest in also doing a home-and-home series but the Tarheels declined, leaving Kentucky seeking another marquee home-and-home opponent to announce at a later date.