Sources: Calipari finalizing deal with Arkansas

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John Calipari is finalizing a five-year deal to become the next men’s basketball coach at Arkansas, sources told ESPN on Sunday night, a blockbuster move that will shake up the SEC and college basketball landscape.

The deal is expected to be completed in the next 24 hours.

Calipari is the second highest-paid coach in the country at Kentucky, earning more than $8.5 million per year. Arkansas is believed to have offered Ole Miss’ Chris Beard in the neighborhood of $5 million when it pursued him following Eric Musselman’s decision last week to leave for USC, sources told ESPN.

After Musselman left for USC, Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek pursued Beard and Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, although both coaches returned to their respective schools.

Calipari has been under more pressure at Kentucky than at any other time during his tenure, as the Wildcats haven’t been out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since 2019 and suffered upset losses to 15-seed Saint Peter’s and 14-seed Oakland in recent years.

Following the first-round defeat to Oakland, there was enough speculation about Calipari’s job status that athletic director Mitch Barnhart had to release a statement confirming Calipari would return as the Wildcats’ head coach next season.

Kentucky would have owed Calipari more than $33 million if it were to fire him, but the school isn’t owed any money if another program hires him.

One of the biggest names in college sports, Calipari has been at Kentucky since 2009. He led the Wildcats to the national title in 2012 and went to four Final Fours in his first six seasons in Lexington. Kentucky then went to the Elite Eight in 2017 and 2019 but has won just one NCAA tournament game since that last run to the regional final.

Off the court, Calipari established the Wildcats as the recruiting powerhouse in the country, routinely landing top-ranked recruiting classes

In 15 seasons with the Wildcats, Calipari is 410-123.

Before taking over for Billy Gillispie at Kentucky in 2009, Calipari was the head coach at Memphis for nine seasons. He led the Tigers to two Elite Eights and reached the national championship game in 2008, where they lost to Kansas in overtime.

Calipari also led UMass to the Final Four in 1996 before leaving for the NBA and coaching the New Jersey Nets for three seasons.

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