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John Calipari has signed a new contract that will keep him at Kentucky through the 2020-21 season. (UK Athletics) John Calipari has signed a new contract that will keep him at Kentucky through the 2020-21 season. (UK Athletics)
Contract details.pdf | Complete contract with addendum.pdf

The conversations that led to John Calipari's new contract were fairly straightforward.

Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart wasn't trying to do anything other than keep the right coach for Kentucky basketball at Kentucky.

"This was agreed to in principle right after the season," Calipari said in a phone interview. "It was let's try to get this right and let's try to get it right for your staff. I want this to be someplace you're comfortable being the rest of your career, and I said, 'That's good, let's do it.' "

They got it done.

On Thursday, UK made official a new contract for Calipari that will last through the end of the 2020-21 season. For Barnhart, the deal is a commitment to a coach who has restored UK to its rightful place atop the college basketball world and deserved recognition of his work.

"We feel like we have one of the premier coaches in college basketball and he certainly needs to be rewarded and recognized for all the things he has accomplished," Barnhart said. "It has long been our goal over the last three to five years that Cal enjoy this as his final stop in coaching and that he has an opportunity to finish his career at the University of Kentucky and hopefully set standards and win championships that will be remembered for many, many years to come."

The contract comes after yet another season of Calipari's name being attached to various NBA jobs through rumor and innuendo, in spite of Coach Cal's constant reassertions of his happiness in Lexington. Putting pen to paper yet again reinforces that he doesn't plan on going anywhere.

"I certainly think the university has made an incredible commitment to Cal and this is a further indication from him that this is where he wants to be long term," Barnhart said. "I think that loyalties are very, very important in the world today. In college athletics it's very hard to find, and his loyalty to this program and this university as many times as his name has popped up is indicative of him wanting to be here and to continue to grow this program.

"I'm sure he's had other opportunities to try the NBA again, but I'm not sure there is an NBA job that is any better than what this program and this fan base can give."

Calipari's contract will increase his annual salary to $6.5 million next season if he returns the following season. The numbers are big and Barnhart doesn't hide from that fact, but deal is dictated by an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The men's basketball program, along with football, plays a crucial role in the success of UK Athletics, helping to fund the 20 other sports sponsored by the school and maintain UK's status as one of the few self-sustaining athletics departments in the nation. As much basketball tradition as UK may have, the importance of an elite coach leading the way cannot be overstated.

"We certainly have the most incredible fan base for basketball," Barnhart said. "We have great facilities. Obviously we always have a dynamic schedule and great exposure. If you put all of those things together and you don't have someone at the head of the thing leading it the right way, it can quickly go the wrong direction. So he has been the right person at the right time at the University of Kentucky and has done a fabulous job of leading our program and is very deserving of an extension of his contract."

Calipari didn't pretend to know what outsiders will make of his new contract, nor does he care all that much. His only interest is continuing to do work at UK that can be done in precious few places.

"All I know is that Kentucky is one of those places that is unique to work," Calipari said. "There's great satisfaction, yet it's one of those jobs that it's hard to stay on top of. It's just what it is. I don't know the statement that's made other than hopefully people look at us and they see that we've set a standard on a lot of different fronts, from academics to what we've done on the court to developing players to developing young men and then also what this position can do as far philanthropic endeavors and how this position can be leveraged into something that's bigger than all of the little pieces combined."

When Barnhart hired Calipari five years ago -- time both agreed has "flown" by -- that was the goal both had in mind, to compete at the highest level while also enriching the lives of the student-athletes who made it all possible. On both fronts, it's impossible to qualify Calipari's tenure as anything other than a success.

Calipari's record at UK is a sterling 152-37 (.804 winning percentage), including 18-3 in NCAA Tournament play with a national championship, another title game appearance this season, a Final Four Berth and a trip to the Elite Eight. No school has more wins than Kentucky in the tournament since Calipari's arrival.

It's a similar story of excellence off the floor.

For the sixth time in seven semesters, UK posted a team grade-point average of 3.0 or better this spring. The program's APR scores also remain high, including a perfect score of 1,000 in 2012-13 and a most recent four-year composite score of 989.

"What Cal has done is returned us to those glory days of Final Fours and championship efforts, great players, and all along he's helped young people understand the responsibility of going to class, of the commitment to each other and to a program that has as rich of a tradition as this one does," Barnhart said. "So those are not easy tasks at any level, and he manages it all with incredible effort, great excellence and has done a marvelous job of managing the program."

Calipari had a vision for what he could accomplish when he became coach, but even he could not have foreseen all this.

"You know what, I knew it was a unique place," Calipari said, "but if you told me you would have nearly 20 guys drafted in five years, that you'd have the number of wins that we've had, which may be the most in the country, that you'd have three Final Fours, two national championship games and all that, and have four straight years of a 3.0 or better, and have an APR that is one of the highest in the league, I would have said, 'You're asking for everything. You want everything!' "

By recruiting at an unprecedented level and focusing on helping student-athletes achieve their dreams, Calipari has delivered. To the former players who starred at UK and now are scattered throughout the NBA, that's why Coach Cal's new contract is so important.

"This is a great move for the basketball program and the university as a whole," John Wall said. "Coach means more to UK than just wins on the floor. He helps change lives for both his players and their families, as well as people in the community in ways that a lot of people don't know. I'm really happy for him and his family."

Wall and his fellow former Wildcats know Calipari in a way few do. Because of that, they know there's no better coach for Kentucky.

"I have the utmost respect for Cal," said Anthony Davis, who followed Wall as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. "He has always had my best interests in mind, from before the recruiting process, while I was at Kentucky and now that I'm gone. He's like a father figure to so many players that come through UK. He really wants to help all of us succeed in our own ways. I'm glad to see that he will be the coach at Kentucky for a long time."

Exactly how long remains to be seen.

Coaching at Kentucky, according to Barnhart, is a 24/7 proposition and Calipari knows it's not a challenge that can be undertaken half-heartedly.

"It's not a place that you can plant your flag for a 28-year run nowadays," Calipari said. "It's just not. As long as I'm having a lot of fun, as long I am helping families and young people reach their dreams, I'll be good. But again, my plan all along, even when I was 30, was I'm going to coach until I'm 55 or 60 and give everything I have while I'm doing it. Leave nothing on the table."

With that approach, Calipari continues to raise the bar and expectations have followed suit. Add in his new deal and a stacked 2014-15 roster and those expectations go through the roof.

"The contract is substantial," Barnhart said. "There's no question about that. High expectations come with those kinds of things. So it's not easy. You do get rewarded for some of the things you've done, but with those rewards also come expectations and those come for a variety of reasons. One, it comes from where you live. You live at Kentucky; the expectations are already there. You add to it outstanding recruiting. And then you throw on top of that a contract and everybody goes, 'Well, those three things together, the expectations went from one level to another level.' "

"I will tell you that it's been an amazing five years," Calipari said. "And now, it's Kentucky - there's an expectation that we're going to do better. I don't even know what better would be. I mean, what is better? Like, let's go for it, but I don't even know what that would look like."

If his first five years are indication, Calipari might just surprise himself again over the next seven.

Jodie Meeks will participate in UK's commencement ceremonies on Saturday. (UK Athletics) Jodie Meeks will participate in UK's commencement ceremonies on Saturday. (UK Athletics)
Five years ago now, Jodie Meeks decided to forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility and enter the NBA Draft.

Kentucky fans, of course, would always have a special affinity for the sweet-shooting All-American guard, but they likely figured his days in Lexington -- save for an occasional visit -- were done.

Instead, Meeks has returned to campus every summer to attend classes. In that time, he's had more than his share of interactions with students surprised to the NBA millionaire lugging around a backpack.

"They usually recognize me right off the bat," Meeks said. "They look at me like what am I doing here. So I just look at them the same way. It's always fun. It's always fun seeing people's reactions. I'm a regular person just like them so when I'm trying to get my degree I just ask them, 'What are you doing here? I'm doing the same thing.' "

On Saturday, he'll don a cap and gown and realize that goal.

Meeks will be among 60 current and former UK student-athletes who will participate in commencement ceremonies, following the 30 who did the same in December. He still has a class to finish up this summer, but he will take a walk on Saturday that's been eight years in the making with his family in attendance.

As soon as he decided to declare for the draft, Meeks committed to complete his coursework and graduate. Even as his NBA career has blossomed and taken him from Milwaukee to Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Meeks has remained true to that commitment and will finally earn that degree in business marketing.

"Once I get my mind set on something, I usually do it 99 percent of the time," said Meeks, who memorably set UK's single-game scoring record with 54 points against Tennessee. "When I left school early -- I wasn't sure that I would leave early - but when I did, I made a commitment to myself and my family that I would do it. It just feels good to have it done now and just finally be done Saturday."

Well established as a professional after a career season with the Lakers, Meeks is likely to sign a lucrative deal this summer. Nonetheless, the degree he is about to receive gives him a sense of security no contract ever could.

"One thing I don't do in basketball but especially in life is take things for granted," Meeks said. "You never know how long your career will last, but once you have a degree, you can have it forever. You can do a lot of stuff with my degree. Once I get out of playing basketball I'll be able to do that."

Before then, Meeks has free agency to think about.

He just finished the final season of a two-year deal with the Lakers, posting career highs in scoring (15.7 points per game), rebounds (2.5), assists (1.8), steals (1.4), field-goal percentage (.463) and 3-point percentage (40.1). Meeks called the season "bittersweet" since the Lakers finished well outside the playoff picture with a record of 27-55, but there's mistaking the fact that his big season has given him options.

He'll start thinking about them later.

"It's still early," Meeks said. "It's only May, so I'm not officially allowed to talk to anyone until July. So right now just focusing on this last class and this degree and I'll think about basketball in July and August, September and things like that. But I should be in a pretty good situation. I had a pretty good year, put myself in a good predicament for next year. So just have to make the best decision for myself."

That's exactly what Meeks did when he declared for the draft in 2009. He never second-guessed his decision -- and why would he considering where he is today? -- but admits the what-if scenarios UK fans so often play out when they think about the 2009-10 season do cross his mind.

That team -- John Calipari's first at Kentucky -- was one of the most talented in recent college basketball memory. John Wall and Eric Bledsoe manned the backcourt, while DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson patrolled the paint. Along with those four established NBA players, the Cats had future draft picks Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller.

Perimeter shooting ultimately felled that group, as the Cats shot just 4 of 32 from 3 in a 73-66 Elite Eight loss. It's difficult to imagine West Virginia's 1-3-1 zone working nearly so well with Jodie Meeks -- who hit 117 3s in a record-setting junior season -- on the floor.

"I think about that too," Meeks said. "I don't think we would have lost a game, in my opinion. It would have been a fun team. Sometimes I think, 'What if I'd have stayed, would my life have been different here?' But I felt like it was the best decision for myself."

Things have worked out OK for Kentucky too.

As Meeks has flourished in the NBA, Calipari has led UK to three Final Four berths in the last four seasons, including a national title in 2012 and another trip to the championship game in April.

With all that success, speculation about a return to the NBA has followed Calipari, in spite of his constant assertions to the contrary. Most recently, the Lakers' decision to fire Mike D'Antoni has fueled rumors of Calipari migrating westward.

Meeks liked the idea of playing for a coach he missed by a season in Lexington, but it's hard for him to understand why Calipari would ever leave.

"I was excited maybe that he could coach me, but if I was him I wouldn't leave here," Meeks said. "You know, it's a great place to coach and play. He has it made here, you know. So that would be up to him, but I wouldn't go anywhere."

Makes sense, especially since Meeks keeps coming back.

Videos from the 2014 CATSPY Awards

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UK Athletics hosted the 12th annual CATSPY Awards on Monday in Memorial Coliseum, with student-athletes, coaches and staff dressing up to celebrate a memorable 2013-14. You can find all the award winner right here, but the highlight of the evening is always the video produced by Kentucky Wildcats TV. Check them all out below.

Happy Dance

Softball

Men's Tennis

Women's Soccer

Rifle

Track and Field

Men's Swimming and Diving

Women's Swimming and Diving

Aaron and Andrew Harrison announced their decisions to return to Kentucky on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Aaron and Andrew Harrison announced their decisions to return to Kentucky on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
After a flurry of announcements over the last two weeks of Wildcat big men bypassing the NBA Draft, UK appeared set in the frontcourt for 2014-15.

With guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison tweeting news of their decisions to return to Kentucky on Friday, John Calipari's team should be just fine in the backcourt too.

"ONE MORE YEAR #BBN #strivefor9," Andrew Harrison said.

"Glad to say that I will be back at UK for my sophomore year. #BBN," Aaron Harrison said minutes later.

The announcement triggered a torrent of excitement on the part of UK fans, an understandable feeling given the key roles the two 6-foot-6 twin brothers played in leading their team to the national championship game.

Explaining his decision to return just two days before the NBA's deadline to declare for the draft, Aaron Harrison cited that NCAA Tournament run.

"I'm coming back for a second season in large part because last year's title run was special, but we still have unfinished business," Aaron Harrison said.

Aaron Harrison started all 40 of UK's games as a freshman, averaging 13.7 points and 3.0 rebounds. Memorably, he hit game-winning 3-pointers against Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin to lift UK to within one victory of the ninth national championship the Cats will pursue again in 2014-15.

Andrew Harrison -- who started 39 games at point guard and averaged 10.9 points and a team-high 4.0 assists -- had that on his mind when he decided to bypass this year's draft.

 "I'm returning for my sophomore season because I want to win a national title." Andrew Harrison said.

Calipari will of course be looking to coach UK to that national championship, but his first thought was about how he expects them to develop as they come back to Lexington.

"I'm excited about Aaron and Andrew's decision to return for next season," head coach John Calipari said. "Their postseason play was a result of the improvement they made all season and displayed what they're capable of doing on the court. I look forward to having the opportunity to work with them during the summer and watch them lead next year's team."

The team they will lead features a remarkable stockpile of talent. The Harrison twins are among nine McDonald's All-Americans on UK's 2014-15 roster. Willie Cauley-Stein -- who likely would have been a first-round draft pick this season had he declared -- is not included in that group.

Cauley-Stein was the first of six Wildcats to announce he would return to UK and was followed by Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson and finally the Harrison twins.

They will combine with fellow scholarship returnees Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins to give Coach Cal his most experienced Kentucky team. Players responsible for 64.6 percent of UK's minutes played in 2013-14, 59.3 percent of its scoring, 54.2 percent of its rebounds and 67.3 percent of its assists will again be in the fold.

They will be joined by yet another highly touted recruiting class featuring Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. Not long after the twins' decision, three of those incoming freshmen had already weighed in on social media, among others.







Julius Randle declared for the NBA Draft on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Julius Randle declared for the NBA Draft on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It was more than a year ago now that Julius Randle committed to Kentucky.

Just a few months later, he arrived on campus and began practicing with his teammates. Big Blue Madness, a tumultuous regular season and a magical NCAA Tournament were next on the docket.

As Randle sat at a podium announcing his decision to declare for the NBA Draft on Tuesday, he couldn't help but wonder where the time went.

"This season, this year, the more I think about it, it just went by fast," Randle said. "I'm definitely going to miss it. Kentucky will always have a special place in my heart. Growing up as a kid, it's always been my dream to play in the NBA, and there's no better opportunity for me to achieve that goal than now."

When Randle came to UK, he put thoughts of playing professionally on hold. Instead, he focused on building bonds with his team and playing for college basketball's ultimate prize.

The Wildcats came up one win short of the latter goal, but succeeded wildly when it came to the former. That's why Randle was able to make the decision to leave Lexington with his head held high.

"I know I came one game short of winning a national championship - we did as a team - but everything we went through this year is just an experience that I'll never forget," Randle said. "That alone was enough, kept me at peace to leave."

Short of beating Connecticut, Randle couldn't have accomplished much more in his short time as a Wildcat.

The 6-foot-9 forward arrived with a five-star pedigree and delivered. He was a dominant force from the beginning of the season onward in spite of facing double and triple teams after a 27-point, 13-rebound performance against Michigan State. Randle averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds, garnering Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year honors in the process.

"I would say my one year here was fantastic because (John Calipari) goes into your home when he recruits you and he says, 'It's going to be the hardest thing you've ever done,' " Randle said. " 'You're going to work the hardest you ever did.' You say OK, but you may not believe it. But once you're in the fire, what he said is true."

After surviving the fire, Randle moves on to the next challenge. He's the No. 5 prospect on Chad Ford's Big Board and the No. 4 overall pick in Draft Express's 2014 mock draft. No matter where he lands, Coach Cal sees a bright future ahead.

"I truly believe that Julius will be an even better pro than a college player," Calipari said in a release. "He was Shaq'd (Shaquille O'Neal) all year - in every way. I really appreciate all that he did for this program and how he represented all of us throughout the entire year. I cannot wait to watch him shine at the next level."

While Calipari watches his former pupil in the NBA, Randle will be watching his former coach's team next season.

He had no insight to offer about the pending stay-or-leave decisions of Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Alex Poythress and Dakari Johnson, but Randle had plenty of good things to say about next year's team.

"I mean, we have so much talent," Randle said. "Willie (Cauley-Stein) coming back. We have Marcus (Lee). He was huge in the tournament. All the incoming guys. We have so much talent coming in next year. We're definitely going to make another run."

The use of first person is particularly telling because Randle isn't about to stop being a Wildcat even though he won't wear the uniform next year. With that in mind, he had some advice to pass on to his UK brethren, who figure to shoulder some of the same expectations Randle and last year's Cats had to cope with.

"I think that's why I was able deal with the criticism myself, because I never really fed into or really read anything or believed anything," Randle said. "I just tried to stay in my own little circle or little bubble and focused on the team and that's all I really cared about. As long as you're invested into the team, that's your total focus, investing into being a student-athlete then you won't really won't waver too much from the criticism or expectations."

Video: Kentucky's SEC Network spot

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On Tuesday, the SEC Network revealed special spots for each of the league's 14 schools. Nothing says Kentucky quite like Big Blue Madness.

Demand the SEC Network today.

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