John Calipari made another appearance on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday morning — a combination that always makes for entertaining discussion — and the UK coach hit many of his recent talking points while also expounding on some new ones.
The gist of much of the conversation: how to “fix” college basketball amid the continued reports related to the federal investigation into the sport, ongoing debate over the NBA’s “one-and-done” rule and the pervasiveness of agents in the game.
Calipari repeated past stances that he’s not a fan of the rule barring high school players from jumping straight to the NBA. He also, like always, pushed back against criticism that his revolving door or star recruits “devalues” the college education. And he countered the idea that college freshmen who leave early aren’t “ready” for the NBA by pointing out all of his former players who are on their second and third contracts, along with those who have earned awards from their community work.
“But you know, some of mine aren’t (ready). And why? They shouldn’t have gone,” Calipari said. “And I told them that. But when they choose to go, I support ’em. And then when they get there, they say, ‘Oh my gosh.’ It’s a little different.”
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To prepare players for the NBA jump — and possibly prevent guys who aren’t ready for making that jump — Calipari offered some interesting thoughts, especially if the NBA does away with the one-and-done rule, which is looking more likely.
The UK coach, who has repeatedly said that the NBA Players’ Association should be more involved with young basketball stars, said he’s spoken to top players’ rep Michele Roberts about the idea of a “combine” for top high school recruits.
“Do a combine for juniors. Take a hundred of ‘em. Tell the ones that need to go to college, ‘You need to go to school. And you 15 or 12, you need to go directly to the NBA.’ But let ‘em know,” Calipari said. “How about this? The Players’ Association oversees the agents. Well, figure something out where these parents can get advisers or be advised with you there, as the Players’ Association.”
Calipari noted on The Dan Patrick Show that some current college basketball players — those determined to be future pros — can take out insurance policies in case they get injured before they make it to the NBA.
Asked by Patrick for one rule change he would make, Calipari said the Players’ Association should, in a similar fashion, be able to loan money to college players and their families before they make it to the pros.
“You should also be eligible to get a loan for your family to travel, to eliminate all this third-party crap (from agents),” he said. “You go do it. You can do it yourself as a family. That would be the major thing.”
Calipari’s notion that players’ families need money to travel to see them play in college (and, in some cases, desire to relocate to the players’ college city) coincides with comments made by NCAA managing director of enforcement Mark Hicks at the NCAA Convention earlier this year.
When discussing trends in NCAA violations, Hicks said this is becoming a common one.
“What are the things that they’re asking for? More and more, it’s assistance in relocation,” Hicks said in the meeting, which was attended by the Herald-Leader. “It’s not uncommon for kids to go across the country to school somewhere, and parents want to see their kids. And so they want to move to that location. And that comes up all the time. And it may be as blatant as, ‘Hey, I need a place to live.’ Or, ‘I need money to make that happen.’ Or maybe, ‘I just need a job. Somebody that I can meet that might give me a job.’ And then you start in a real murky land of, ‘When does that become a benefit, a recruiting inducement, etc.?’
“The other thing we see is travel to away games. Especially with our conferences now, it’s nothing to traverse many, many states over to go watch a game. So the question is, ‘Well, how am I going to get to the away games?’ And there’s an expectation that they want to see all the games. And so that’s another area that we see demands with. Both of those mean you need resources. So, again, it kind of goes back to a request for cash.”
Calipari also once again advocated Wednesday that players should be able to profit off their likeness — endorsements, paid autographs, etc. — and still retain their eligibility.
As far as incidents that are now violations but might happen outside of a college coach’s control — like meals with agents while a recruit is still in high school —Calipari had a blanket response to fix the issue.
“If the coach cannot control it, make it legal,” he said. “If I have no control over it, and you’re going to say that I’m responsible for it? Make it legal. Make it legal, I don’t care what it is. If you’re going to tell me something happens in their high school, make it legal. Something happens in their hometown, make it legal.”
Something Calipari made clear Wednesday that he doesn’t want is to blow up the system to accommodate the dozen or so one-and-done players each year.
He mentioned star recruits of the past such as Leon Smith and Jeremy Tyler, who jumped straight from high school to the NBA but never stuck, wondering aloud what it would mean for the NBA to open up its developmental league to high school recruits.
“We’re going to encourage them to go to the (G League) and they don’t make it — are we going to have a list of a thousand of those? Two thousand of those?” he said. “And then I ask you this, ‘Who’s going to take care of them?’ We just had the highest graduation rate of African-American basketball players in the history of our sport last year. How many of those kids thought they were one and done? Or two and done? Probably 90 percent of them. But they stayed in school and they got it.”
Calipari’s fix: If players are being drafted out of high school, the NBA should be obligated to give them signing bonuses and guarantee a college education once their playing careers are over, similar to the baseball model.
“I’m for that. Let’s go. Sign me up,” Calipari said. “Short of that, I’m on the other side, and I don’t care if the President of the United States says that, I will be on the other side. Because, why would we devalue education when that’s the one hope to get people to the other side of the tracks? That’s the hope.
“African-American young people — what are we doing for them? How do we make sure they’re making the right decisions for themselves, which is going to affect them the rest of their life?”