clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kentucky’s John Calipari voices support for Bellarmine’s NCAA Tournament eligibility

Following the Wildcats’ win over the Knights, the hall-of-fame coach says Bellarmine should be allowed into March Madness

John Calipari and Scotty Davenport
John Calipari and Scotty Davenport coached against each other on the court but agree the NCAA should shorten the probation period for teams transitioning to Division I.
Both Photos: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The Bellarmine Knights have friends in high places. Following the Knights’ 60-41 loss to Kentucky, Wildcats coach John Calipari stressed that Bellarmine should be allowed to participate in the NCAA Tournament.

“Change [the rule],” Calipari said referring to the NCAA’s stipulation that when a team transitions to Division I it must wait four years to be eligible for the postseason. “It’s not right for the kids. They should be able to be in that tournament if they do what they did.”

The Knights won the Atlantic Sun tournament championship last March in their second season in Division I but were not one of the 68 teams in the field for the NCAA Tournament. The first year they will be able to make March Madness or the NIT will be the 2024-25 campaign.

“What’s disappointing, you know, if they win their league tournament again, they can’t get in,” Calipari said. “Here’s what I would say, and I’ve said this many, many times, if you do things for the kids, you’re never wrong. If you’re doing stuff based on, well, that’s the rule. Well, we had a rule that they changed because a player went on TV and said, ‘I’m starving and I don’t have money to buy a hamburger,’ and all of a sudden all the rules changed. Within a week they all changed.”

Knights coach Scotty Davenport took the podium after Calipari and expressed gratitude for the hall-of-famer’s words.

“You don’t have any idea how much I appreciate him doing that,” Davenport said. “He’s the voice of college basketball. He didn’t have to do that, but that’s what makes people extraordinary. Caring is a special talent, and he wouldn’t have said that if he didn’t care.”

In addition to missing out on the NCAA Tournament last season, the NCAA rule also cost the Knights their leading scorer from the championship season. Dylan Penn, who averaged 16.6 points per game, transferred to Vermont in the offseason.

“I look these players in the eye every day,” Davenport said. “I can tell you this, the NCAA has never looked them in the eye one second. I have begged them to come. I told them I would pay it out of my pocket. Come, please. Look them in the eye like I do every day. No.”

The NCAA Division I Council considered reducing the transition period from four years to two but tabled the proposal last spring.

Bellarmine became the first team to play at Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke), Pauley Pavilion (UCLA) and Rupp Arena (Kentucky) in one season. The Knights did it in a nine-day span, which wrapped up on Tuesday.

The Knights (2-6) are set to host Alice Lloyd College (Ky.) Sunday. They will kick off ASUN conference play against Liberty at home on Dec. 28.