Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari calls for NCAA reform in his new book, “Players First: Coaching From The Inside Out,” noting that the collegiate athletics governing body needs to desperately update its policies or face elimination. The book is scheduled to hit the streets April 15 and outlines, among other things, monetary compensation for the student athlete.
Calipari, whose Kentucky Wildcats just lost to Connecticut in the national championship game Monday night, says in his book that players should receive stipends of three to five thousand dollars and should be eligible to receive loans of up to $50,000 against future earnings, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The current system, he writes, is reminiscent of the Soviet Union just prior to its collapse; still commanding and threatening, but in imminent danger. He added that he believes change is inevitable and the NCAA will need to adapt in order to continue on as the principal voice of college athletics.
The stipend system suggested in Calipari’s book is nothing new. Other coaches have reportedly put the idea on the table and proposed a three to five thousand dollar stipend to be used specifically for covering the full cost of attending a school, but it was met with skepticism and rejected. In a press conference Sunday, NCAA president Mark Emmert acknowledged that his organization does need to revise some things, but then opposed many ideas, including player unions.
Calipari further recommends the NCAA provide eligible players with insurance coverage and one round-trip flight home per year, both benefits that violate current NCAA rules regarding amateurism. He also took aim at another long-standing rule, which states that if a player transfers, he is required to sit out one season. His stance is to put some power back in the athlete’s hands by allowing a transfer to play right away without the mandatory one-year wait.
Given Calipari’s checkered history with the NCAA, his current posture might seem a bit self-serving. While the head coach at UMass from 1988-96, he gave the program a complete facelift, guiding the Minutemen to their first ever Final Four appearance, a 193-71 overall record, and the nation’s number one ranking several times. But he was later forced to vacate the appearance when it was discovered that star UMass player Marcus Camby accepted over $25,000 during his collegiate career.
From 2000-09, Calipari would take another program, the University of Memphis, to new heights. Under his leadership, the Tigers would post an overall record of 252-69, seven consecutive 20-win seasons, an NCAA record four consecutive 30-win seasons, a number one national ranking and a Final Four appearance. But trouble would also find him in Tennessee and the Tigers’ Final Four appearance was vacated when the NCAA invalidated freshman guard Derrick Rose’s SAT scores.
More recently, Calipari has come under fire for what many see as his promotion of the one and done phenomenon, where many of the nation’s top recruits enroll at a particular university then flee for the NBA after one year. Kentucky and Calipari have become infamous for attracting this brand of freshman and even started five such players for the majority of the 2013-14 season.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat