Archive for Friday, April 3, 2009

Kentucky, Calipari are out of touch

April 3, 2009


While John Calipari was deliberating, Greg Bamberger was cutting.

The men’s soccer team at Kutztown University got the ax Tuesday as the Pennsylvania college moved to cut costs in the athletic department. So, too, did the swimming team.

“It wasn’t one of my best days as athletic director,” Bamberger said.

It wasn’t a good day in Memphis either.

Business leaders came carrying gifts and fans brought homemade signs to Calipari’s front yard urging him to stay, both to no avail. A local television outlet broadcast a mournful stream on its Web site of the door at the University of Memphis athletic department, but Calipari was already as good as gone.

Things were different in Lexington, where fans clad in Kentucky blue gathered at the airport to watch planes land, hoping Calipari would be on one of them. He was, lured to one of the most hallowed places in college basketball not by its great tradition but by cold, hard cash.

Reports varied, but they were all essentially the same. A million or two here or there didn’t matter much because when it was all added up it added up to this: Calipari will be paid more than anyone has ever been paid to coach a team of players who will get nothing more than some books and meal money as their part of the bargain.

Four million a year, maybe five. All for a guy whose next national championship will be his first.

Bamberger could have used some of that money, maybe even saved soccer and swimming with it. He runs the entire athletic department at Kutztown on about the same amount of money Kentucky will be paying every year to its new coach.

Like Calipari’s former school, the Kutztown Golden Bears had a good year on the court. The men’s basketball team went 28-5 and advanced to the Division II Atlantic Region final before their season came to an end.

For that, ninth-year head coach Bernie Driscoll didn’t make enough to pay Calipari’s country club dues.

Surely, Kentuckians have noticed that the nation is teetering on the brink of economic calamity, and that one out of every 10 people in their state is unemployed. They have to know that companies are closing, people are losing their houses, and that even the president says things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Yet they stand and cheer when a taxpayer-supported university spends $35 million for a coach while at the same time the budget for professors and everyone else at the state’s universities is being cut 2 percent and the state is digging into its “rainy day” money to stop further bleeding?

Someday, historians are going to look back at this period and try to figure it out. They won’t be able to, because there’s no rational reason for the irrational exuberance of fans who simply don’t know any better.

What they will find is that on the last day of March in 2009 a school in Pennsylvania had to let two coaches who were barely making rent money go and tell two teams full of student-athletes that they no longer have a sport to compete in.

On that same day, they’ll see that a private jet whisked the new University of Kentucky coach to Lexington so he could formally claim his $35 million grand prize.

And they’ll have just one question: Just what were they thinking?


OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 10 months ago

"He was, lured to one of the most hallowed places in college basketball not by its great tradition but by cold, hard cash."

We know his motivation? Don't all the "most hallowed places in college basketball" all have deep pockets? There is no way he could have gone to a premier BB program without being offered millions.

It seems unfair to say it was "all" about money. The money would have been there regardless.

But, yes, if UK's athletics is not a seperate corporation... I'd have to agree that this was a moral/ethical miscalculation.

hail2oldku 6 years, 10 months ago

The_Original_Bob (Anonymous) says…

Kentucky basketball funds soccer, swimming, etc… If it weren't for basketball, there would be no athletic programs at Kentucky. Sure, their fans are a bit crazy and it seems they overpaid for a coach with questionable morals, but it is seen as an investment. And, if UK's program is funded like KU's, very little of his salary is even funded by the state.

And even if it were funded by the state it would still be turning a profit. A couple of weeks ago everyone was harping about Jim Calhoun's outburst when he was blind sided during a postgame press conference about his pay. There was a report out yesterday showing that the men's basketball program NETTED $7+ million for the university. Yes you read that right, they had expenses of a little more than 7 million dollars with revenues of just under 15 million. I'd have to say that is a pretty decent ROI.

supertrampofkansas 6 years, 10 months ago

Article was released by AP.

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

I agree that this article makes no sense at all because most of the money does not come from state funds. And as most point out, the university stands to make a huge ROI by trying to bring in the best.

cthulhu_4_president 6 years, 10 months ago

This article is pure nonsense and thinly veiled propaganda. Sentances like this:

"Calipari will be paid more than anyone has ever been paid to coach a team of players who will get nothing more than some books and meal money as their part of the bargain."

Plainly display the author's bias against athletic spending, not to mention being completely untrue (academic scholarships, anyone?). And sentances like this:

"Yet they stand and cheer when a taxpayer-supported university spends $35 million for a coach ....."
Show that he is willing to twist the facts (and omit them completely) to spur outcry where none is warranted. The university is taxpayer supported, his salary isn't, you moron.

The end of the article fails to drive home any point, whatsoever. Some people have more problems than others, yup. I knew that before I started reading. I seriously want that 6 minutes of my life back.

Tony Kisner 6 years, 10 months ago

Out of touch in deed; the author needs to take his little finger out of the dike, the flood waters have breached and we love it. $35MM to supervise 19 year old kids playing 30-35 forty minute games seems appropriate to me.

Cesar, please let the games continue.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

Despite the many protestations to the contrary, if all forms of taxpayer subsidies for professional sports, including big-time college, were removed $35 million salaries for coaches, and players, and $600,000 for AD's, would disappear.

Mary Darst 6 years, 10 months ago

Seriously, you have got to be kidding me. NOBODY is worth that much money. Think about it. For the last few months, the only thing anyone has griped about was the amount of money these CEO's of the failed companies were getting. I am as big a sports fan as the next person... but 35 million plus is just plain crazy. We wonder why our society is the way it is. This is entertainment, not life and death. It doesn't matter who pays the salary, it is still crazy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

"If that's unpalatable to you, your gripe is with capitalism, not college sports."

Can't it be with both?

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 10 months ago

People get paid in line with the amount of revenue they generate. Calipari is so good at his job that he brings in many...MANY times what they pay him. Same with coach Self... same with any high level athlete or coach... or business executive... etc, etc.

Whoever wrote this pos article, please stop the class warfare.

Tony Kisner 6 years, 10 months ago

I would questions the capitalism of College sports. In particular when the producers are paid Zero (don't even debate the value of a scholarship), and the State has subsidized the facilities at the very least. Yes Allen Field house sits on State Property which is not leased to KUAI at Free Market Capitalist rates of return. Not to mention that as a player you are not free to access the market place for your skills for a period of time after high school, so much for free access to markets. So my gripe about college sports is not with capitalism it is the socialist funding portion. I love pro baseball and have no issue with its business model.

deskboy04 6 years, 10 months ago

It is a little silly to spend that much money on a college coach. The NBA is where it is at!

woodenfleaeater 6 years, 10 months ago

"He was, lured to one of the most hallowed places in college basketball not by its great tradition but by cold, hard cash."

And this is something he said. The money got him, not the tradition?

deskboy Calipari did coach in the NBA, for the Nets, but he wasn't a good NBA coach. The same can be said for alot of premiere college coaches. They are great in college, not in the NBA. First one to come to mind is Rick Pitino.

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