LEXINGTON, Ky. — More money. More years. More John Calipari.
Kentucky basketball continued to espouse a more-more-more ethos with Thursday’s announcement that Calipari had signed a new contract that includes a two-year extension and an average compensation of $7,500,000 per season.
Besides giving Lexington Mayor Jim Gray an ever-more-inviting target to seek a donation for the proposed Rupp Arena renovation, the new contract moves Calipari ahead of Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($5,758,338 last season) and behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ($9,682,032) on USA Today’s list of most richly paid coaches.
Calipari, who is coming off a third Final Four appearance in his five seasons as Kentucky coach, will now operate under a new seven-year contract that will pay him $6,500,000 next season and steadily increase his pay to $8,000,000 in its final season of 2020-21. If Calipari remains at Kentucky for the duration of the contract, it will pay him at least $52.5 million.
Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart put the new contract in the context of a marquee program paying its coach a marquee salary for a job well done.
“What Cal has done is returned us to those glory days of Final Fours and championship efforts, great players,” Barnhart said in a statement. “And all along he’s helped young people understand the responsibility of going to class, of the commitment to each other and to a program that has as rich of a tradition as this one does.”
Barnhart expressed the hope that the contract will strengthen the effort to make Kentucky the final stop in Calipari’s coaching career. Calipari is 55 now and will be 62 at the end of this contract.
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said that Calipari had set a new standard for excellence in a program that had already amassed more victories than any other school.
“Under Coach Cal’s leadership, the most storied program in NCAA basketball has reached new heights of success and excellence,” Capilouto said in a statement. “And that continued success, in which Coach Cal plays a critical leadership role, is a major reason why we have one of the handful of programs in the country that is financially self-sustaining and that has entered into an unprecedented partnership to fund nearly two-thirds of a more than $100 million science building dedicated to learning and research. As important to me, the coach, his staff and our entire program are focused intently on putting students first in everything that they do. Nowhere is that more evident than in their continued efforts to ensure that our student athletes are prepared for success in life as well as in sports. They perform on the court and in the classroom.”
Shortly after Capilouto arrived at Kentucky in 2011, he and Board of Trustees Chairman Britt Brockman dissolved the UK Athletics Association and instead created more oversight of athletics with a Board of Trustees athletics committee. Ironically, the move was made in part because trustees were unhappy when they were surprised by a big raise and contract extension given to Barnhart by former president Lee Todd without notification.
Board approval was not needed for Calipari’s new contract. University spokesman Jay Blanton said the board has to approve lease contracts and capital projects, but it only has one employee, the president. The president oversees all other employees so board approval was not required for Calipari’s new contract, despite the large amount of money dispersed in the contract.
Brockman said Thursday night that he and athletics committee chairman C.B. Akins were individually briefed by the president a few weeks ago, and kept in the loop since then.
“We have a high level basketball program and the premier coach in the nation and I’m pleased we’re able to extend his contract in recognition of the job he’s done,” Brockman said.
Trustee David Hawpe said he was not surprised by the contract’s size.
“College basketball is an entertainment venue and coaches’ contracts are part of the market,” he said. “I’m not surprised the market tells us this is an appropriate level of compensation for Coach Calipari. I regret very much the market doesn’t seem to reward academic talent, great scholars and teachers, to the same extent it rewards basketball coaches.”
In five seasons, Calipari has led the Wildcats to a 152-37 record (.804 winning percentage). Kentucky has advanced to four Elite Eights, three Final Fours, two championship games, and won the 2012 national championship. Seventeen UK players have been selected in NBA drafts in the last four, including 13 taken in the opening round. John Wall in 2010 and Anthony Davis in 2012 were the first two Wildcats ever selected with the overall first pick.
In a statement, Calipari expressed gratitude to Barnhart and Capilouto for their “commitment to me, my family and the basketball staff.”
Calipari had been the subject of speculation about moving to the NBA. Such talk began the night of UK’s loss to Connecticut in this year’s NCAA Tournament finals.
“I’ve said over and over that I have the best job in the country … ,” Calipari said. “But we still have lofty goals for the future.”
Calipari’s teams have also been successful off the court. Most recently, the men’s basketball team posted a 3.11 cumulative grade-point average during the 2014 spring semester. It marked the sixth time in the last seven semesters the basketball team has achieved a 3.0 or higher GPA. In addition, Kentucky totaled a perfect APR score of 1,000 for the 2012-13 year.
The new deal is Calipari’s fourth since coming to Kentucky in 2009. He also received a two-year extension in 2011, plus pay increases in 2011, 2012 and now this year.
The latest contract removed incentive bonuses for winning the Southeastern Conference regular-season and/or tournament championships, for advancement to the Sweet 16 and Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, for winning a national title and for a graduation rate of 75 percent. Those bonuses totaled $750,000.
That money is more than made up for in new retention bonuses for staying on the job as UK coach. Those retention bonuses start at $1.6 million per year and increase to $2.6 million per year by the end of the contract.
The only incentive bonus in the new contract is $50,000 per year for achieving a team APR of 950 or better.