LEXINGTON, Ky. - The $31.65 million deal making John Calipari the highest-paid coach in college basketball is packed with perks beyond his annual salary, including membership to the country club of his choice, two cars and incentives for reaching the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and Final Four and winning a national title.
Calipari agreed to leave Memphis and Tuesday night signed the eight-year contract to join the nation's all-time winningest basketball program.
His base pay is listed at just $400,000 per year, but his guaranteed compensation actually is $3.7 million in his first season when marketing, broadcasting and endorsement payments are added.
The Wildcats paid Memphis $200,000 as part of Calipari's buyout of his Tigers' contract, which had paid him $2.35 million per year.
Including $3 million in retention bonuses he'll get for staying with Kentucky through March 31, 2016, Calipari is in line to receive an average of $4 million a year over the eight years.
The deal also gives Calipari:
Should the university fire Calipari without cause, he would still get $3 million for each year left on the contract, double the annual buyout for former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie under his memorandum of understanding.
The rich contract comes at a time when tuition rates have spiked at the university and state higher education funds have shrunk. UK officials defended the salary package by saying the athletics budget is completely separate from the academic side, and a successful basketball program pays for itself several times over.
"If I went through and paid a coach $1.5 million and I didn't get the right guy, there would be people mad at me on that side," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "If I got one of the more expensive contracts in the country, I'm going to get it from that side. We're the pre-eminent basketball program in the country, and if we want a premier coach, then that's what it takes to get it done."
Alabama football coach Nick Saban's eight-year, $32 million deal in 2007 includes private use of a university airplane, two cars and a country club membership. Like Kentucky, the money is covered by athletic department revenue, and not — directly at least — by taxpayers.
Such is the trend in landing the people to lead the most prominent major college programs, but even some supporters of the Calipari hire say the trend is troubling.
"This thing has been an arms race for years," said former UK star Larry Conley, now a broadcaster. "Doesn't seem to have an end to it. Whether it's coaches' salary, practice facilities, it continues to escalate. At some point, you've got to have an end."
Few seem to be arguing that the investment in Calipari won't reap financial benefits, assuming he returns Kentucky to prominence.
Kim Bucci, director of sponsorship sales at IMG College, which handles marketing for UK's TV and radio network, says there is so much buzz around the Calipari hiring that she expects marketing deals beyond what it has now. Those deals include a local bank, phone company, car dealership and state highway department.
"His personality lends to business entities wanting to associate with the brand of UK basketball and the personality of John Calipari," Bucci said.
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