“Kentucky isn’t for everyone,” John Calipari says at least five times every day. Not only does that include the players that he is recruiting, but also basketball coaches. It takes a special person to run the most historic program in college basketball history, but it comes with historic resources as well.
When Calipari was rumored to be negotiating with UCLA this spring, reports came out about his demands for a recruiting budget. It included a private plane, among other things. We all know that Calipari has access to a plane in Lexington, and while we have all guessed at how much that must cost, we finally have an answer.
Andy Wittry at Watch Stadium requested financial reports pertaining to Kentucky’s basketball recruiting expenses, and since the University Kentucky is a public institution that information is public record.
Wittry was able to track down the expenses used for Calipari’s recruiting efforts from September of 2016 through January of 2019. While the resulting numbers include lots of commas, I was honestly not surprised by the totals.
During that time frame, which takes place over 28 months, John Calipari and his staff spent $1,463,486.65 on recruiting basketball players across the country. Of course, the vast majority of those costs came as a result of the private plane the coaching staff uses. A whopping 82% of all recruiting expenses came from using private flights.
Wittry even went as far as tracking expenditures for specific recruits. On the trip where John Calipari and Joel Justice offered Zion Williamson a scholarship, the university was charged $8,345.90. Kentucky visited Williamson, or had Williamson come to Kentucky, a total of 12 times during his recruitment. That is a lot of money for a player that never played in a Kentucky uniform.
For the three top 50 players in the 2019 class that have committed to Kentucky, Wittry calculated the totals of how much it cost to get their commitments. Between Tyrese Maxey (~$45,000), Kahlil Whitney (~$17,000), and Keion Brooks (~$31,000), John Calipari and his staff spent approximately $93,000 recruiting the incoming class for this fall. Of course, that does not even include Johnny Juzang or Dontaie Allen.
Calipari has spent similar money trying to get commitments from numerous players throughout his tenure at Kentucky. In fact, 56 players’ names came up in expense reports during the time frame in questions. Of those 56, 48 have announced their college commitments. Of those 48, only 13 have chosen Kentucky.
So there are eight players out there that are uncommitted that Kentucky has spent gobs of money recruiting. But up to this point, Kentucky has spent over $1.4 million to land thirteen recruits since September of 2016.
While I am sure there is a way to do an accurate cost/benefit analysis on how those expenditures match up to the revenue brought in by those players, on the surface these numbers seem irresponsible at best.
To be clear, these amounts are certainly not unique to Kentucky. So if you expand these numbers to the dozen or so programs with resources similar to Kentucky, the numbers would be mind-boggling.
What do you make of the money being spent on college basketball recruiting?