Kentucky's John Calipari closes in on big deal for Arkansas head coaching job: Sources

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By Shams Sarania, Dana O'Neill and Kyle Tucker

Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who has been at the school for 15 seasons, is closing in on a big new contract to leave the Wildcats and become the next head coach of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, two sources said. Athletic.

Razorbacks officials have focused their head coaching search on Calipari in recent days and intensified their search over the weekend, sources said. No deal was finalized as of Sunday night, the sources said.

Calipari called John Tyson, the billionaire heir to the Tyson Foods empire and Arkansas booster, a “longtime friend.”

Calipari, who led the Wildcats to seven Elite Eights, four Final Fours and a 2012 national title, is signed to UK through the 2028-29 season — but he didn't have to buy out of school early.

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Had he been fired after this season, the school would have owed Calipari $33 million. It became a hot topic in Lexington after its second first-round NCAA tournament exit in three years. The Cats haven't reached the second weekend since 2019, haven't won the SEC title since 2020 and haven't made the Final Four since 2015.

Many in the fan base were ready to walk away from Calipari after this year's loss to 14th-ranked Oakland, but he and athletic director Mitch Barnhart came out publicly days later to say they were working together to turn the program around. This sudden mutual interest between Calipari and a new suitor in the same Southeastern Conference has Calipari, a 65-year-old Hall of Famer, hoping that the fresh start will ultimately be better for everyone.

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No. in Calipari. Has the No. 2-ranked recruiting class, which includes three McDonald's All-Americans. Notably, the last time he took the job from Memphis to Kentucky in 2009, he took his recruiting class with him that included John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

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(Photo: Jacob Kuperman / Getty Images)

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