In “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out”, Kentucky Basketball coach John Calipari agrees completely with Kent Sterling

by Kent Sterling

"Kent, can you ever forgive the things I thought about you?  How can I hate a guy whose name starts with K-E-N-T?"

“Kent, can you ever forgive the things I thought about you? How can I hate a guy whose name starts with K-E-N-T?”

Okay, Cal, I forgive you.  Let's get a smoothie!"

Okay, Cal, I forgive you. Let’s get a smoothie!”

University presidents have made the NCAA so completely useless that they have created an alliance of two people normally at total odds about college athletics – Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari and me.  Calipari makes so much sense in his new book, “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out” that I may drive to Lexington to make peace and buy him a smoothie.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s synopsis of the book (to be released April 15th), Calipari offers a 13-point plan to resolve some low-hanging fruit issues that keep schools from financially benefitting anyone but themselves, coaches, and administrators.

Click here to follow Kent Sterling on Twitter

I am so in lockstep with Calipari that I would swear he’s a fan of this site if not for the strident and caustic posts I’ve written that have repeatedly ripped him for being the embodiment of all that is self-serving about big time college coach/millionaires.

Among his excellent ideas in the chapter titled “At War? Common Sense Versus the NCAA”:

  • $3,000 to $5,000 stipend for players to cover the full cost of attending a university
  • NCAA to cover eligible players’ insurance premiums
  • Allow college athletes to accept loans against future earnings up to $50,000
  • If a coach leaves his team, players should be permitted to transfer without sitting out for one season
  • Allow players the money for one round-trip flight home every year
  • Access to lawyers
  • Funds for formal attire to wear when representing the school

Calipari also recommends allowing families to purchase championship rings and stay in the same hotels as the players during the NCAA Tournament.  Not only did I never know those weren’t allowed, I have no idea how the NCAA could stop such things from happening.  If I want to stay in the same hotel as my son, I’m booking a room.  Why the NCAA might object will need to be explained to me, although they might want to save their time and mine.  Their illogic only frustrates me.

In the book, Calipari compares the NCAA to the Soviet Union in that its inability to evolve guarantees its own obsolescence and demise.  The only change I would make is to clarify that NCAA president Mark Emmert would like to implement some of the same initiatives that Calipari recommends, but membership approves all rule changes.  University presidents run things, not Emmert.

People tend to blame the NCAA as though the bad ideas and archaic notions of amateurism emanate from Indianapolis, rather than the bureaucrats who run from any changes that might adversely affect their bottom line in a way their boards of trustees might object.

But the ideas are stellar.  Kids should be allowed access to legal opinions.  Who could see the logic of a destitute kid about to become a millionaire being banned from seeking advice?  It’s ridiculous.

I would add two ideas to Calipari’s fine list – scholarships should extend for the life of the athlete, if he or she leaves the university in good standing; and health coverage for injuries sustained during collegiate competition or school sanctioned and supervised work survives long past the life of the scholarship.

It’s possible that those notions are included in the book, but not in the Wall Street Journal synopsis of the book.

The concept of sharing ideology with a guy I have reviled for so long can either be seen as a sign that even the most virulent opponents can find common ground, or that one or the other needs to seriously examine his belief system.

I can either be an intractable opponent like Joseph Stalin, or accept the concept of agreeing with a sworn enemy as Mikhail Gorbachev did.  What a minute, why am I the Soviet guy?  Calipari can be the Russky.  I get to be Kennedy or Reagan.

Either way, this book is a step toward detente.

5 thoughts on “In “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out”, Kentucky Basketball coach John Calipari agrees completely with Kent Sterling

  1. Pauly Balst

    Bully for Calipari, hopefully the NCAA listens. Cal will be on the right side of history with those points. I think Cal may simply be ahead of the curve (irony noted).

    This is not a criticism, so chill BBN. Cal’s job is also to stuff the KY coffers with as much cash as possible. In doing so, he assures himself a larger and larger cut (and hopefully someday his players) of the loot. It’s the American way.

    Through that prism, the decision to not play a home and home with Indiana is logical. By barnstorming domes, the payday is increased substantially, students be damned. Avoiding hostile environments is a pleasant byproduct.

    What if Calipari just implemented his 13 point plan? I’d give him a standing O. What’s the NCAA going to do, suspend the whole team? What if the SEC decided to implement his plan? The tail has been wagging the dog for too long.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Any call for anarchy is applauded here, especially when the governing body is as out of step with reality as is the NCAA.

      And you are right, respect for rules should be reserved for rules that make sense. The tail wagging the dog is everywhere, especially in the compliance offices. The NCAA rulebook is so unwieldy and the enforcement so haphazardly applied that schools are forced to expend tremendous resources on their enforcement staff.

      Eliminate the crazy rules, and divert the money allocated to compliance to an athletic trust. That would be a good day’s work.

  2. Warren in TN.

    Holding a B.A. in history (Russian-American studies at that) and speaking fluent Russian, I find the whole way Coach Cal framed the argument in a unique light. I have to agree, in large part.

    I was made aware of his book (and some of his comments) on the CBSsports website, where some of these points were being debated. The thing that stood out to me in a cursory glance over user comments, was the over-riding blind hatred of Cal where the sarcastic comments overwhelmed the points he made.

    Most people over there couldn’t get beyond their hatred of him for the good points he made. At the time, I thought, I wonder what these people would think of these points if they didn’t have a name to attach to who came up with the ideas? I thought that if they didn’t know it was Coach Calipari, they would have been far more people that would approve of the suggestions.

    I liked a lot of what he brings up, too. I wonder about the one to allow for loans, though. I suppose for some players, where that is more feasible for them to pay a loan back, is a good thing and a good idea. For others, I wonder if that idea could backfire where the athletes might not be able to pay back said loans, and it cause more harm than good. But, overall, I think even that idea has some merit.

    Covering insurance premiums should be something already happening, considering the nature of injuries these top-tier athletes sustain over the course of their time spent in the NCAA. That seems only logical, fair, and should fall under the purview of common sense.

    His other ideas seem to be quite reasonable to me. I also like Kent’s added thoughts.

    I know Kent’s been rather harsh in his writings on Coach Calipari, and I’ve disagreed with him about it. And that’s ok. Honest men will disagree with one another from time to time. But it’s things like this where Coach Cal seems to me to be an ok guy, where he makes logical and reasoned points that follow common sense. He doesn’t come across to me as self-serving at all with what he puts out here. That, and he doesn’t necessarily seem to me to have increasing his own wealth as a primary focal point for what he says here.

    As I said, I can understand the reasons why people don’t like Cal, or distrust him, or suspect he’s a cheater and that they may never come to like, much less respect him. But for me, I remain open-minded to the man. I admit I like him, for the kind things he has done in the past, and the good he has done. I also remain guarded about Coach Cal that he may be, at some point in time, proven to have cheated and done bad things. But until then, I give him the benefit of the doubt, and will continue to support him.

    I like the fact he’s out there like this, and his points are something we should all consider for the betterment of the student-athlete.

    1. Pauly Balst

      Re Cal, too many people I respect hold him in pretty high regard for me to completely dislike him.

      Philboyd Studge and you Warren were the only UK fans who made me consider other factors. Philboyd’s point about which kids had the better collegiate experience a couple weeks ago (UK vs IU) was fair.

      The money involved has gotten completely out of whack with the notion of student athlete.

      IU is in a small college town where 50% of hoops tickets are guaranteed to students, on campus arena, and Colts, Pacers, Purdue, Notre Dame, etc. dilute fan interest.

      UK is in a larger regional hub type city, fewer student tickets, off campus arena, no pro sports, and intense fan interest. UK benefits from being one of the few outlets for regional pride. I’ve travelled to Lexington many, many times for business, I like the city and like the people.

      Two different views of the world. I applaud Cal for taking leadership, it’s time has come.

      Has UK made any statement supporting or rebuking him?

      1. kentsterling Post author

        I’ve seen nothing from AD Mitch Barnhart or the president. My guess is that they will keep their distance. No point in opening the door to being yelled at by peers at industry conclaves.

        Really looking forward to reading Calipari’s book.


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