John Calipari secured a lifetime contract to coach basketball at Kentucky not long after UCLA offered him a pay cut to jump to the Bruins.
Already making $9.2 million per year to teach college students the game of basketball, Calipari will remain with the school for the rest of his career if both sides live up to the terms of the new deal.
Calipari claimed on his radio show the timing has nothing to do with the offer from UCLA, and that negotiations have been ongoing for awhile, “It has nothing to do with the other stuff … people call every year. They presented it to me, and I appreciate it.”
There are four facts not in dispute about the UCLA offer and Kentucky’s desire to keep Calipari:
- UCLA is either delusional – or operating as a negotiating arm of Team Cal. Offering a coach like Calipari a pay cut ($48M over six years) to take over a dumpster fire like UCLA is a baffling negotiating strategy. Given the institution’s track record of decision making, delusional is a good bet.
- Cal is worth every penny to UK. Unless you’ve been to Kentucky, it’s hard to appreciate the passion the state feels for the Wildcats. The program dominates the state, and we have seen what happens when UK hires the wrong guy. Without the branding Kentucky Basketball provides, application rates would drop significantly. If anything, Calipari is underpaid compared to his value to the university and state.
- The position fits Calipari better than any other. In Los Angeles, Cal would be asked to share the spotlight with Magic, LeBron, the Rams, Dodgers, Angels, Kings, USC, and the Galaxy. At UK, Calipari is the king of the state. There are some rogue Louisvillians who loathe Kentucky in favor of Chris Mack’s Cardinals, but that only drives Cal’s popularity higher everywhere outside Jefferson County. King Cal is more visible and popular than the governor – and probably more powerful (as long as he wins).
- Cal being at Kentucky is also very good for college basketball. Nobody is more loathed within the college basketball universe, and Kentucky is the program fans love to hate. It’s a magical combination of hated elements that makes college hoops fun. Fans watch teams they love and teams they hate, and no matter who you love, it’s damn likely you root with zeal against Kentucky. Let’s face it, on Sunday afternoon, virtually no one was backing Auburn, but millions loved that they won.
So Kentuckians will continue to pack Rupp Arena to cheer for the Wildcats. The rest of us will rage against Cal and UK. For those convinced players should be paid, Kentucky will be an example of institutions willing to make a coach rich while compensating soon-to-be NBA players with a partial education.
Everyone who loves college hoops should be thrilled Cal will remain in Lexington. Love him or hate him, that marriage is great for the game.