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Sources – John Calipari finalizing 5-year deal with Arkansas

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.

Calipari’s contract is expected to have an overall base salary of slightly less than the $8.5 million he’s making at Kentucky, sources told ESPN. However, the deal is expected to be incentive-laden with the ability to pass that number.

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

The key relationship to help the deal come together was Calipari’s long-standing ties to John H. Tyson, a billionaire who is a longtime Arkansas benefactor.

Calipari is set to replace Eric Musselman, who left for USC last week. After his departure, Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek pursued Ole Miss’ Chris Beard and Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, although both coaches returned to their respective schools. Arkansas is believed to have offered Beard in the neighborhood of $5 million per year, sources said.

Calipari has been under more pressure at Kentucky than at any other time during his 15-season 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 released 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 a recruiting powerhouse, routinely landing top-ranked recruiting classes.

Calipari is 410-123 with the Wildcats.

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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