John Calipari was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame on Friday, and over the course of the last week, the college hoops world was overrun with writers penning stories about what Coach Cal has meant to the sport and what this induction truly means to him.
A lot of it was good. Some of it was great. But far too much of it failed to recognize that what Cal does better than just about any coach at any level is generate money for charity.
Sunday was a prime example of that, as Kentucky hosted a Charity Alumni Game against former North Carolina Tar Heels at Rupp Arena, an event that raised more than $1.1 million to date for 17 different charities, a number that could climb as high as $1.5 million as memorabilia is auctioned off.
This is the third installment of the UK Alumni Game, with the event raising a combined $1.35 million in 2012 and 2013. It wasn’t held in 2014, but the program still managed to raise upwards of $1 million. Cal has done things like this before, including telethons to help support disaster relief in places in Haiti, after the earthquake in 2010, and for the eastern seaboard after Hurricane Sandy.
23,154 fans showed up to the event for the chance to see a glorified pickup game, one where center DeMarcus Cousins spent the game firing up threes like he was Stephen Curry. No other program in the country would be able to generate that kind of fan interest for an Alumni Game.
Cal realizes the power of Big Blue Nation, and while he’s done his job of turning UK back into a national power — getting paid handsomely for it — credit must be given for his ability to harness that power to benefit others.