Kentucky Basketball: John Calipari Gets Well-Deserved Contract Extension and Raise

Jonathan Daniel

John Calipari earns a contract extension and a substantial raise. Two trips to the NCAA Tournament finals and one championship in five years will get you that almost every time.

Well, we should probably talk about John Calipari's new contract, which runs through the 2020-21 season. If Coach Cal stays through this entire contract, he'll be 62 years old. I suspect, but do not know, that Calipari will either retire or move on sometime during the term of this contract. Get used to thinking that, folks, because he's made it clear he doesn't intend to try to out-tenure Adolph Rupp, so we might as well come to grips with the notion, whether or not it is right, that we have only five or six years of Calipari left. In case you're wondering, I'd love to be wildly wrong about that, and for him to say until 2030 or so.

Having said that, let's look at what we know about the deal:

  • Financial compensation goes from $6.55 million in 2014-15 to $8.05 million in 2020-21. It increases $500,000 after the first season of the contract, then by $250,000 every year until 2018, where it flattens out to $8.05 million for the duration.

  • There are no bonuses for any level of tournament or conference success.

  • There is a $50,000 APR incentive.

  • The actual salary is $400,000 throughout the life of the contract.

  • Media and endorsements escalate from $4.5 million in 2014 to $5 million in 2018 and beyond

  • The retention bonus is the main escalator, and goes from $1.6 million in 2015 to $2.6 million in 2018 and beyond.

The lack of incentives is notable, as most coaches, including Calipari under his current contract, get bonuses for all sorts of success milestones. The only "incentive" in Calipari's contract is a manifestly pro-forma $50K for academic performance — an amount so insignificant that it suggests it was included only to spare UK the embarrassment of having no academic incentive whatsoever, which would have drawn criticism from faculty and the college sports commentariat alike. Virtually all other contract provisions remain the same, so there is no hidden penalty for poor performance anywhere.

This contract has one particularly redeeming feature: It allows Kentucky to put Calipari's line item in the budget and not worry about having to shell out big chunks of cash for a remarkable 2011-12 or 2013-14-like run. The previous contract was heavy with incentives for winning tournament games, and UK had to consider that in it's budgetary decsions. Now, that line item is only going to vary a maximum of $50K, which gives the athletics program a better idea of what it's outflows will be. That's never a bad thing from a business standpoint.

My opinion is that this contract reflects the trust that Calipari has engendered with the University of Kentucky, a trust that has been well-earned and flies in the face of the predictions of doom we saw when Kentucky made the decision to hire the controversial coach in 2009. John Calipari at Kentucky has done nothing but succeed, both on the basketball court and in the classroom. He has been a pillar of the Lexington and Commonwealth communities with his charitable work and foundations, has helped on a national level with the Hoops for Haiti telethon, and has always supported the V Foundation at the highest level.

Let's be honest — Calipari deserves, to the extent any college basketball coach does, every dime of his compensation. He has been an unalloyed Good Thing for Kentucky basketball, and will one day take his rightful place in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, and possibly even the Naismith Hall of Fame right alongside Bob Knight, who famously disparaged Coach Cal back in 2011, one of several times he has done so. That would be delicious irony indeed.

The future notwithstanding, congratulations to both UK and Calipari on a mutual decision well-made. Calipari has proven many times he belongs at the University of Kentucky, and has earned our respect and loyalty through peerless competence at his job, unrelenting work ethic, and outstanding devotion to people and the human condition. As they say in the armed forces, his efforts reflect great credit upon himself, and upon the University of Kentucky. I would also add his loyal fans and supporters in the Big Blue Nation.

Congratulations, Coach. You deserve this one.

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