Calipari joins Lexington Country Club

UK paying $30,000 initiation fee

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2009 

Although he lives one block from Idle Hour Country Club, University of Kentucky basketball Coach John Calipari has followed the path of his two predecessors and joined Lexington Country Club.

The University of Kentucky Athletic Association is paying a $30,000 initiation fee and about $516 each month for Calipari's membership, according to a Lexington Country Club invoice dated Aug. 25. The Herald-Leader obtained the invoice from UK under the state Open Records Act.

Under Calipari's contract, the university agreed to provide "a membership in a local golf and country club of his choice and pay monthly dues and initiation fees."

Lexington Country Club is on Paris Pike, more than 8 miles from Calipari's Richmond Road house. The entrance to Idle Hour Country Club, which has come under scrutiny in the past for having no black members, is about 150 yards from Calipari's front door.

In 1999, the state Human Rights Commission began investigating Idle Hour Country Club because it had no black members. The commission dropped the case last year because they could not find a plaintiff to assert they had been denied membership because of their race, according to Morgan Ransdell, an attorney with the commission.

Officials with Idle Hour Country Club could not be reached for comment Monday. A club official told a Herald-Leader reporter in 2006 that it was willing to accept black members, but could not find any who were interested in joining.

UK men's basketball spokesman DeWayne Peevy said Monday he did not know "any of the details" behind Calipari's country club choice.

Club memberships have been a sensitive issue for UK officials in the past. In 2002, former UK President Charles Wethington resigned from the Lexington Club, a private downtown dining venue, because it had no black members.

Former Lexington Club President Kenny Angelucci said Monday the club now has black members.

The Lexington Country Club has had black members, including Sam Bowie, who became the club's first black member in 1993, and former UK coach Tubby Smith.

Calipari joined UK In April, replacing Billy Gillispie, who was fired.

When Gillispie was hired in 2007, he first joined Champion Trace golf club, which is near Gillispie's former residence in Jessamine County. Later, Gillispie changed his membership to Lexington Country Club, according to documents provided by UK.

Champion Trace refunded its dues, and in September 2007, UK spent $24,021.24 on Gillispie's initiation and two months of dues at Lexington Country Club.

It has become customary for universities to pay club membership dues for coaches. At UK, such expenses, along with the roughly $32 million being paid to Calipari over eight years, comes from an athletics budgets that doesn't use state funding or tuition money.

Still, at least one UK faculty member called spending $30,000 on a country club initiation fee "uneven" when compared to faculty salaries. Those salaries have been frozen for two years.

"It seems uneven when one looks at the compensation for the regular staff," said John Thelin, who also serves on an NCAA research advisory board. However, Thelin said, "The Athletics Association has the legal right to do that. It's an expression of their priorities."

Staff writer Linda B. Blackford contributed to this article. Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3409

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