Calipari urges lawmakers to support UK

By: Gabriel Roxas Email
By: Gabriel Roxas Email

It's become a hot topic, should the state pitch in to cover some of the costs of renovating Rupp Arena? UK's top officials have said, no. Coach John Calipari has teamed up with President Eli Capilouto to ask the state to spend money on academics and residence halls instead.

Calipari took that message to Frankfort Thursday and lawmakers gave him a warm welcome.

Thursday night business leaders gathered at the Lexington Convention Center for Kentucky Chamber Day to hear from state leaders about the issues facing the legislature this year. A light-hearted House Speaker Greg Stumbo took the stage and addressed the issue of public funding for UK. "You know I heard they asked Mitch Barnhart for a comment about the fact Dr. Capilouto thought the students ought to have a place to sleep in a new dorm before we got a new place to play basketball," Stumbo joked with the crowd, "They asked Mitch what he thought about that. He said, well, he said you know they all sleep outside to get tickets before a game. If they had more tickets and played more games, they'd all sleep outside anyhow."

But earlier in the day it was lawmakers who made up a captive audience for an unlikely lobbyist. Coach John Calipari received a standing ovation from legislators, then joked that his reception might not be as welcoming if he had lost his game against the University of Louisville.

Calipari along with University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto made their case that even with a tight budget in a struggling economy state leaders should not neglect UK's needs for critical improvements to classrooms and residence halls. "I would just say what I'm trying to tell our basketball players," Calipari told the group, "it's about being friends. You all know this better than anyone else. If you're in this legislature by yourself, you're not getting anything done. You gotta have friends. You gotta team up with some different people. You have to compromise. You have to come up with different ideas. We want you to be our friends."

In the spirit of compromise Capilouto pointed out ways to combine public and private dollars, and Coach Calipari finished with a soft sell. "I hope I didn't come on too strong. I usually don't do that," Calipari said to laughter.

Dr. Capilouto told lawmakers the average age of UK's classrooms and residence hall rooms is nearly 50 years old. He says an independent study recommended they tear down 12 buildings and make major revisions on 29 more.

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