Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari is one of the most well-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 before the start of the 2020-21. The school won the title in 2011 and made four Final Four appearances at the previous level. However, because NCAA rules call for a four-year process before being allowed to compete in the Division I tournament, Bellarmine’s 14-8 record in 2020-21 and their 20-13 record in 2021-22 did not get them to the dance.
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Sahvir Wheeler, #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats, dribbles the ball against the Bellarmine Knights at Rupp Arena on Nov. 29, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Calipari said that was unfair.
"Let me just say this: [Bellarmine coach Scotty Davenport] has done a great job with that program. We all know," Calipari said, via the Lexington Herald Leader. "What’s disappointing, you know, if they win their league tournament again, they can’t get in. … I’ve said this many, many times. If you do things for the kids, you’re never wrong."
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Kentucky's Adou Thiero, left, listens to coach John Calipari during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against North Florida in Lexington, Kentucky, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
He criticized the NCAA for not thinking more critically about the transition rule.
"Change it," he added. "It’s not right for the kids. They should be able to be in that tournament, if they do what they did. They’re well-coached. They’re great kids. I hope people will reconsider. Change the rule."
While Bellarmine lost to Kentucky 60-41, Davenport said everyone in the program is relishing 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 in Lexington, Kentucky, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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"To have us here, this is incredible," Davenport said. "These young men will never forget this experience for the rest of their lives. Nine days — Cameron, Pauley, Rupp Arena, that’s Bellarmine University. People say why? Because that’s what I believe a program is about."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Ryan Gaydos is the sports editor for Fox News Digital.