John Calipari: The Only Way Players Can Get Paid Is If Superconferences Are Created


John Calipari: The Only Way Players Can Get Paid Is If Superconferences Are Created

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari signed a contract extension this week which ties him to the Wildcats until. Asked if players will be getting paid by the time that contract runs out, he basically said he hopes so — that players start receiving a cost-of-living fund — but there needs to be more dialogue when it comes to finding a way to get it done. Right now, the only solution Calipari sees is one that others have certainly mentioned before: the creation of four superconferences for 64 or 72 teams, perhaps the number of programs right now that would vote to add that cost-of-living stipend.

Calipari says that group would have its own playoffs and tournaments and then share the revenue equally that is generated by them, and that’s a way to get by Title IX and the other road blocks to paying players. Perhaps that will become a reality under his new long-term deal. Perhaps Calipari won’t stay at Kentucky that long. Both seem like a bit of guesswork at this point.John Calipari joined ESPN Radio New York with Mike Lupica to discuss his new contract extension, how Kentucky players did in the NBA Draft, if NCAA folks keep coming at him if he’ll go back to the NBA, how many people he thinks associate him with vacated titles and NCAA probations, if players will be getting paid by the time his new contract comes up and how he thinks it can work.

On his new contract which runs through 2019:

“It was funny, the AD came at me and said, ‘I want to reward you for what you’ve done.’ He and I sat down about two weeks ago and just talked about some things. … I wasn’t that concerned with it. What he ended up doing is moving some longevity bonuses up a little bit, some other bonuses around a little bit and then he put stuff toward the end of the contract. We added some buyout stuff so he felt comfortable. … I’m not looking to leave. This was about him wanting to reward me without going bonkers. I was fine with that. If we keep doing well at Kentucky, they’ll come back.”

What did you think about your players in the NBA Draft?:

“We have the third pick of the draft. If he had played, Enes Kanter would have been the No. 1 pick. We have the eighth pick of the draft, which I’m stunned that Toronto passed him at 5. No disrespect to Toronto, but it really surprised me. And then, I’m here to tell you that Joe Dumars and the people at Detroit were ecstatic. … And then how about my man Josh Harrelson going to New York. The New York people told me his workout was off the chain. … And then DeAndre Liggins goes. They were all drafted. If I’ve had nine players drafted in the last two years and we haven’t won a national championship, who’s coaching this team?”

If the NCAA folks keep coming at you, do you think you’ll tire of it and head back to the NBA?:

“The biggest thing is if you’re not doing anything, it’s only the point of trying to embarrass you. That’s why I’ve said, I’m fine. We’re doing things the way we’re supposed to do them. This is a players-first program with how we do everything. … The biggest thing for me is it took me a long time for me to get to a job like this. … It took me 20 years to get to a job like this. The job isn’t for me as much as it’s for my players. … There’s a lot of good stuff happening and it’s a great situation.”

How many people do you run into that tie in vacated titles and you leaving schools on probation such as Bob Knight does?:

“Probably most people don’t, but I’m not here, nor will I defend myself for any of that. At the end of the day, 50 years from now, when people look back, it’s more fact that they’re looking at, not emotion. … Our licensing revenue doubled last year and half of that double goes back to the general fund on our campus, $4.5 million in licensing. The other thing is we had 14,000 applicants for 4,000 positions for the freshmen, which is the highest in the history of the school. What you hope is you’ve added value … for everybody, not just me.”

Sometime within this new contract extension do you think we’ll see athletes getting paid?:

“It’s a living expense. Back in the day, there was laundry money, there was movie money. To do away with all that, they said, what? Amateur! We can’t give you expense money because it makes you not an amateur. You’re crazy; they didn’t want to spend the money. … There should be a living expense that an athlete gets to go to a school. Some will say, ‘Well they get a Pell!’ That’s the poor kids. Three of the kids I have on my team now aren’t poor enough to get the Pell, but their parents don’t have money to send to them. … What do you do with those kids? Can we call them the middle class? Now, the issue becomes this, if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to do it for women too now. You can’t just say football and basketball, you’ve got to do women. And if you do women, you’ve got to do all the sports. … It’s going to be over a quarter of a billion dollars. Where do we get the money? … If it’s voted on by the whole body of 360 schools, my guess is it’ll be 300 against, 6o for. … What’s the solution? If it is to get done, how do you do it?”

So it will never happen?:

“The only way it can happen is you do the four superconferences and those 64 or 72 schools have their own football playoff in each conference and then those four winners are semifinalists for the national title and then you have the title game and you have bowl games and all that revenue is shared between the 72 or 64 schools and then you do the same in basketball. You have their own tournament. … All the revenue from television to tournaments comes back. You get Title IX square, you get money back to the general fund you give money to intramurals and you take care of this expense of cost-of-living expense.”

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