Tyson scores with Calipari hiring at Arkansas

A new college basketball coach offers opportunities for collaboration.

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John Calipari | X

Legendary college basketball coach John Calipari stunned the basketball world this week with a move from University of Kentucky to the University of Arkansas. One of the big reasons for the move? John H. Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods.

Calipari has close ties to Tyson, a longtime University of Arkansas benefactor and grandson of the Tyson Foods founder. In 2022, Calipari posted pictures of the two having dinner on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Tyson was “the driving force behind Arkansas’ pursuit of the Kentucky coach,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Arkansas fans are excited and clearly recognize the role Tyson played in hiring Calipari, with one post on X showing Tyson Foods chicken in front of the team’s Bud Walton Arena with the caption, “Thank you Tyson family.”

Calipari’s career

I attended the University of Kentucky pre-Calipari, but once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat, so I’ve watched his career with interest. Hired in 2009, Coach Cal (as many affectionately call him) propelled the team to a National Championship and is responsible for launching the careers of several NBA stars, including Anthony Davis, John Wall and Karl-Anthony Towns.

However, sports fans are a fickle bunch and rumblings that he should be let go began after the Wildcats lost in the first round of March Madness this year.

Having Calipari coach at the University of Arkansas benefits both schools. Arkansas gets a great coach, and Kentucky is no longer on the hook to pay $33 million to buy out Calipari’s contract. 

I joke that everything in my life now relates to chicken, but I truly never thought I’d be blogging about chicken and college basketball.

Potential collaboration between Tyson Foods, Calipari?

John H. Tyson may be spending his own money to help bring Calipari to Arkansas, but I hope Tyson Foods is paying attention to potential name, image and likeness (NIL) deals.

Part of the Calipari deal includes a reported $5 million in NIL funding that will be used to attract recruits and facilitate potential advertising deals. I hope Tyson Foods is a part of this. After all, the brand makes Halloween- and Valentine’s Day-themed chicken nuggets. Basketball- or March Madness-themed chicken nuggets are a likely next step and I bet they’d be a big seller.

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