LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky has called off its trip to Boston to play a basketball game against alumnus Travis Ford's Massachusetts Minutemen, and that school's athletic director isn't pleased.
The Wildcats, who hosted UMass last year at Rupp Arena, were scheduled to play a road game Nov. 24 at Boston's TD Banknorth Garden. However, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart called UMass AD John McCutcheon Friday to tell him the Wildcats would be exercising their $50,000 buyout option to cancel the trip.
In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, McCutcheon said Barnhart wanted to assure another home game for new coach Billy Gillispie, who replaced the departed Tubby Smith last month. However, the buyout could cost the Minutemen between $250,000 and $300,000 in lost revenues, he said.
"Obviously we're very disappointed," McCutcheon said. "When we entered into the agreement with coach Smith and his staff last year, this was our biggest concern, and we received assurances the game would be played. Obviously with the transition of their coaching staff things changed, but they didn't change for us."
Ford, a former fan favorite in Lexington who is 0-4 against Kentucky -- including games he coached at Eastern Kentucky, was upset he won't have the opportunity to host his alma mater, McCutcheon said.
"He's upset by it, more hurt by it than anything else," he said. "He loves Kentucky. I would not want to put him in a position to burn bridges with the university. It's an issue I'll deal with instead."
Kentucky basketball spokesman Scott Stricklin said the buyout -- the first ever since Barnhart took the job -- was simply an effort to get an extra home game for Gillispie's debut season.
"Travis is obviously one of our former guys and someone we're very proud of," Stricklin said. "It was unfortunate that it was his team, but it was the opportunity to get another home game. That's something you never want to do, but the buyout clauses are there to give schools flexibility."
Kentucky hasn't yet found a replacement opponent, and if there is a home game added to the schedule Thanksgiving weekend, it might be Sunday rather than Saturday because the Wildcats' football team hosts Tennessee on Nov. 24. It's also possible the team might schedule its trip to Houston for that weekend, Stricklin said.
With the UMass buyout, the Wildcats are now expected to play only two true non-conference road games this season, against Indiana and Houston. They also could face such teams as Connecticut, Memphis or Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, and the home schedule includes dates with Louisville and North Carolina.