Kentucky’s John Calipari vouches for Bellarmine’s March Madness eligibility: ‘It’s not right for the kids’

kentucky men’s basketball Coach John Calipari is one of the most respected leaders at his position in the current state of the college game, and on Tuesday he went to bat for a Division I newcomer.

Bellarmine University moved from Division II to Division I prior to the start of 2020–21. The school won the title in 2011 and made four Final Four appearances at the previous level. However, because NCAA rules require a four-year process before being allowed to compete Division I TournamentBellarmine’s 14–8 record in 2020–21 and their 20–13 record in 2021–22 didn’t get them to the dance.

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Saheer Wheeler, #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball against the Bellarmine Knights at Rupp Arena on November 29, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Calipari said it was unfair.

“Let me just say this: [Bellarmine coach Scotty Davenport] Great job with that program. We all know,” Calipari said via the Lexington Herald-Leader. “What’s frustrating, you know, if they win their league tournament again, they can’t go in. If you do something for the kids, you never go wrong.”

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Kentucky's Edou Thiero, left, listens to coach John Calipari during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against North Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kentucky’s Edou Thiero, left, listens to coach John Calipari during the second half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against North Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky.
(AP Photo/James Crisp)

He criticized the NCAA For not thinking too critically about the transition rule.

“Change it,” he said. “It’s not fair to the kids. They should be able to have that tournament if they keep doing what they did. They’re well trained. They’re great kids. I hope people reconsider. Change the rules.”

While Bellarmine lost to Kentucky 60–41, Davenport said everyone in the program is enjoying the experience of playing some of the top schools in the country. The school also played games at Clemson, Duke, and UCLA.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Florida on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Florida on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky.
(AP Photo/James Crisp)

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Davenport said, “Having us here is incredible.” “These young men will never forget this experience for the rest of their lives. Day nine – Cameron, Pauley, Rupp Arena, this is Bellarmine University. People say why? Because I believe that’s what a program is about. “

The Associated Press contributed to this report.