If there was ever any doubt in the minds of college basketball fans that Kentucky is among the most elite programs in the country, look no further than the seven-year, $52.5 million dollar contract they have given coach, John Calipari. Behind Calipari the Wildcats continue to win, so when he says “jump,” the university asks “how high?” When he says “show me the money,” they say, “no problem.”
The new contract extension makes him the second highest paid coach in the country, behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. However, in today’s collegiate athletics landscape, coaches may need to be careful about wearing a sky-high contract like this as a badge of honor. Debates have begun to rage about the possible compensation of college athletes, and the topic was only fueled further after comments made by UConn All-American, Shabazz Napier, when he said that there are times when he goes to bed starving. If athletes are going to bed hungry and coaches are making this exorbitant amount of money, some may argue that the scales have tipped too far. The rich get richer, and the poor students get poorer. Yes, the coach plays a very big role in the program, from recruiting to coaching, but coaches should not overshadow the true stars here; those true stars being the men playing on the court.
As the NCAA continues raking in millions of dollars, and coaches are receiving larger payouts than ever, there is a growing concern over taking advantage of young student athletes. If the NCAA and universities throughout the country can pay more than $50 million to a coach, then surely they can figure out a way to make the lives of the student athletes more comfortable. John Calipari puts the players on the court, but it is the players that put the people in the seats. Yes, fans love their head coaches and owe a lot to them for making their programs successful, but the payouts are becoming astronomical and before long players may become completely dissatisfied with their dorm life, especially when the coach is sitting in his mansion on the hill.
If there was a Mount Rushmore of modern day coaches in NCAA College Basketball, there is no doubt that John Calipari would be one of the faces that grace the great mountain. Nobody can argue with his one national championship, three final fours and four elite eight appearances in his five years with the Kentucky Wildcats, but if elite college coaches around the country are saying “show me the money,” then they need to do everything in their power to also say “show the players some love.”
For now, whether conditions improve or stay the same for the athletes, one thing which is certain is that fans of the Kentucky Wildcats have grins the size of their great state stretched across their faces. They have locked down one of the best coaches and recruiters in the country, and as long as John Calipari is the face of big blue nation, the rest of their country will be keeping the Wildcats in their sights.
Commentary by Johnny Caito