UK Men's Basketball

Calipari calls for Kentucky to follow California in allowing players to profit

Kentucky Coach John Calipari broke his public silence on the California law permitting college players to profit off their names, images and likenesses in commercial endorsements.

Speaking on Wednesday morning’s Kentucky Sports Radio show, Calipari said, “These kids, their name and likeness is theirs. They own it.”

But when host Matt Jones asked if Calipari fully supported the idea of college players working as commercial pitchmen and pitchwomen, the UK coach cited complications that made a direct answer difficult.

What about a possible conflict with a shoe contract that has a deal with a school’s athletic department, he asked. And would, say, a swimmer receive the same compensation as a football player?

“You can’t just say, ‘yeah, I’m for this,’” Calipari said. “Now, you can say that if you’re being political and acting like you’re getting ahead of this. But the reality of it is what exactly are you talking about you’re for? ‘Well, I’m for the players.’ Really?”

Then Calipari added in a sarcastic tone, “What a good man.”

Then he added, “I mean, this is deeper than you’re thinking.”

A law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom this fall put the Name Image Likeness issue at college athletics’ center stage. The law, which does not go into effect until 2023, permits athletes at California colleges to profit off commercial endorsements and to hire agents to set up deals. The law does not permit athletes to endorse products that are in competition with a school’s deal. To bring it home, a UK player could not endorse, say, Meijer when the school has Kroger as a commercial partner.

After noting that other states have expressed interest in following California’s example, Calipari said, “I’m ready to go to our state House. Let us come out with one (law).”

Calipari then considered how impractical it would be if each of the 50 states enacted its own version of a law on Name Image and Likeness.

“I think it’s going to have to be settled in (the U.S.) Congress,” he said, “and the reason is because whatever the NCAA does will not be enough.”

Calipari also cautioned against ringing approval of a law permitting college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses. He said “unintended consequences” could arise. For instance, he said a rule allowing players to transfer once without penalty after their freshman years led to major college basketball programs poaching players from mid-major teams.

David Ridpath, an Ohio University professor and the president of The (reform-minded) Drake Group, downplayed any concern about unintended consequences.

“I always say everything has unintended consequences,” Ridpath wrote in an email. “But those are issues that can addressed if needed. Plus, unintended consequences are many times in the eye of the beholder.”

It was not lost on Ridpath that Calipari’s comments came a day after Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski addressed the issue of Name Image and Likeness. “Coach K has forced his hand,” Ridpath wrote.

Krzyzewski said Tuesday that he was “really happy” about California enacting its Fair Pay to Play Act.

“We need to stay current with what’s happening,” Krzyzewski said in a story posted by CBS Sports. “I’m glad it was passed because it pushes the envelop. It pushes the issue.”

Krzyzewski said the California law would “likely lead to far-reaching change” in college sports.

Gonzaga Coach Mark Few gave qualified support for the California law.

“If there was a way we could monetize likeness, and regulate it in a way to keep a fair playing field for everybody, then I’m all for it . . . ,” Goodman told Jeff Goodman of the website Stadium Basketball. “But I’m not for all the grandstanding politicians entering in or media members pulling low-hanging fruit off.”

Few suggested that Newsom should have more impactful issues to deal with such as homelessness and immigration.

Important upcoming dates

Oct. 11: Big Blue Madness

Oct. 16: SEC Media Day

Oct. 18: Blue-White Scrimmage

Oct. 27: Exhibition opener vs. Georgetown College

Nov. 1: Exhibition vs. Kentucky State

Nov. 5: Season opener vs. Michigan State