Costly comparison

Shortly before leaving for Kentucky, Memphis' John Calipari reportedly explained his interest in the Big Blue to his Tiger players by calling UK "the Notre Dame of college basketball."

Since I make my living with metaphors, I decided to determine just how much validity there is to Coach Cal's statement. After exhaustive research, I've discovered he was right. Notre Dame football and Kentucky basketball have an awful lot in common.

For instance:

- Kentucky is perhaps the most tradition-rich program in basketball history; Notre Dame is perhaps the most tradition-rich program in football history.

- Kentucky basketball has won seven national championships; Notre Dame football claims 11 national titles.

- Kentucky basketball has cranked out 47 All-Americans; Notre Dame football has cranked out 178.

- Kentucky basketball produced one of the world's most famous coaches, Adolph Rupp. Notre Dame football produced one of the world's most famous coaches, Knute Rockne.

What Calipari probably overlooked is that there also is a negative common denominator between Notre Dame football and Kentucky basketball: Both programs are living off their illustrious pasts.

The Wildcats haven't won a national title since 1998. They suffered double-digit losses in seven of the past 10 years. They advanced past the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 just twice in the past decade and were eliminated in the Elite Eight each time. Their SEC record over the past four years is a mundane 38-26. Their 8-8 league mark in 2008-09 was the program's worst since Eddie Sutton's 1989 squad went 8-10.

Big Blue basketball fans are not accustomed to such mediocrity. Notre Dame football fans can relate. Consider the length of their drought:

The Fighting Irish haven't won a national title since 1988. They finished in the Associated Press top 10 just once since 1993 (ninth in 2005). They missed the AP rankings altogether in 1994, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. Their 15 combined losses in 2007 (3-9) and 2008 (7-6) represents the worst two-year total in program history.

For what it's worth, here's another interesting commonality:

Since running off the first African-American head coach in program history, Tubby Smith, Kentucky stands 40-27. Since running off the first African-American head coach in program history, Ty Willingham, Notre Dame stands 29-21.

Finally ...

Despite a 10-15 record over the past two seasons, Irish head coach Charlie Weis has seven years remaining on a 10-year contract that reportedly will pay him upwards of $4 million per year through 2015.

Today Calipari signed an eight-year deal that will pay him $31.65 million, an average of just under $4 million per year.

Thus, Calipari's contract gives Big Blue basketball and Fighting Irish football one more common link: Overpaid head coaches.


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