UK Men's Basketball

UK says salary no strain on overall athletics budget

All the talk about John Calipari’s contract being worth $35 million or even $40 million turned out to be wrong, but the new University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach won’t have to scrimp.

The deal guarantees Calipari $31.65 million over eight years, making him one of the highest-paid college basketball coaches in the country — possibly the highest-paid.

He’ll be paid a total of $3.7 million in his first year, which would top the $3.5 million reportedly received by University of Florida’s Billy Donovan, who often is listed as the country’s highest-paid college basketball coach.

Nevertheless, UK Deputy Athletics Director Rob Mullens said Calipari’s salary, plus the cost of buying out former Coach Billy Gillispie’s agreement, won’t overstrain resources of the university’s athletics fund. UK won’t have to recruit more donors or seek extra revenue to come up with the money, he said.

“We have the ability to manage the contract,” Mullens said.

The figures might be tough to swallow, however, for some UK faculty members, who got no pay increase this year because of budget restrictions, and apparently might not get one next year.

“Certainly, the air that we faculty members breathe, and the air that the top candidates for the basketball position breathe, are of a different order,” said Ernest Yanarella, a faculty representative on the UK Board of Trustees. “None of us on the ground level earn anything close to what the next basketball coach will receive.”

Money for coaching salaries and money for faculty pay come from separate sources, and Yanarella noted that the UK athletics department annually provides more than $1 million for non-athletic scholarships and other academic purposes. He said he just hopes that rising coaching salaries don’t force the department to pull back on its generosity.

Officials released a statement Wednesday to clarify that the University of Kentucky Athletics Association is totally self-funded, and it receives no tax money, state appropriations or university funding. Also, the athletics association gives more than $1.2 million annually to the university for non-athletic scholarships.

Meanwhile, UK President Lee Todd says universities today have to pay well for the benefits that high-profile basketball coaches bring.“If you have a coach who’s charismatic, who can really help the marketing image of the university, he will generate more money for us than the differential in pay that we’ve had to go up to in order to get him,” Todd said.

UK officials, confirming Calipari’s hiring at a news conference Wednesday, stressed that they have in hand a signed contract with the new coach — not a memorandum of understanding like the one Gillispie worked under.

Running through the 2016-2017 season, the agreement provides Calipari a base salary of $400,000 per year, plus additional millions of dollars annually from university broadcasting and endorsement agreements. His pay from those agreements in the first year will be $3.3 million.

The agreements include an arrangement with IMG College, which pays UK about $8 million annually for rights to broadcast games; agreements with Nike, the athletic-wear company; and contracts with producers of sports drinks and athletic equipment. Those agreements, plus ticket sales and merchandising, help make up UK’s athletics budget, which totals more than $67 million for fiscal 2009.

UK will guarantee all payments to Calipari.

During Wednesday’s news conference, the new coach said he would have made more money by staying at his old school — an apparent reference to the fact that Memphis offered to match UK dollar-for-dollar. The university also offered him an annuity funded by a private donor.During the national frenzy of media speculation Monday and Tuesday over Calipari’s hiring, some blogs and TV reports had predicted his total contract could hit $35 million or even $40 million.

Although his contract will be less than that, Mullens said, “It certainly makes him one of the highest-paid coaches in the country.”

Calipari could earn even more money through incentives for a variety of accomplishments.

Winning the SEC Tournament in any year, for example, would pay him an additional $50,000. Getting the Wildcats to the NCAA Final Four would bring him an extra $175,000, and winning the National Championship would guarantee a performance supplement of $375,000.

There also are incentive rewards of up to $50,000 if the basketball team achieves strong academic performances or high graduation rates. But they pale in comparison to the rewards for winning games.

That’s typical of today’s big college coaching contracts, said Fritz Polite, a University of Tennessee sports-management professor.

“The contracts are telling you where the value is,” Polite said, “and the value is in winning, not in graduation.”

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