Loud And Wrong: Calipari’s Kentucky Lifetime Contract Extension

John Calipari’s multi-million dollar lifetime contract with Kentucky is another example of how college players are exploited by the NCAA system.

Kentucky coach John Calipari has made a ton of money coaching African-American student-athletes. He’s become a basketball God thanks to generational players such as Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. Win or lose, his positon is secure and each year there’s a university lurking, looking to nab the legendary coach.

Kentucky took another upset L in the Elite 8 of the  NCAA Tournament against Auburn this past weekend.  Calipari hasn’t won an NCAA title since 2012 and he hasn’t been to a Final Four since 2015.  Despite those shortcomings, he is still considered to be the ultimate recruiter. Godfather of the one-and-done blue chipper, Calipari’s influence keeps Kentucky’s talent pool always in the Top 5 of the nation.

Any team in the country, outside of Duke, would part the Red Sea to secure Calipari as head of its hoops program.

UCLA was trying to do just that, offering Calipari a contract worth approximately $48 million over six years, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.

In response to UCLA’s offer, Kentucky has offered John Calipari a lifetime contract extension.

The 60-year-old Calipari confirmed it on Monday, speaking on his University of Kentucky radio show.

Calipari is a master businessman, marketer, and brand ambassador. He has made himself indispensable at a university that was already established far before he assumed the reins in the 2009-10 season.  His ability to leverage his recruiting talents with his reputation and value as one of basketball’s brand names is unprecedented.

It’s also an example of the NCAA’s exploitative nature and the way the entire system uses college basketball players to build empires of riches for universities, coaches, TV stations and fund the other sports at the university. The players themselves don’t get much beyond a free education.

According to the Athletic’s Seth Davis, the contract “would include a 10-year term as coach plus a promise to serve as a paid ambassador for the school after his retirement.” Calipari’s current contract, which runs through 2024, reportedly paid him $9.2 million this year, with several million more available in bonuses.

Doesn’t seem fair that Calipari can parlay his talents and accomplishments into mega-million contracts on the backs of players who appear to be no more than stepping stones to his success. Players who are financially shackled by archaic NCAA rules, lose scholarships and are labeled as criminals for accepting short money from unscrupulous coaches, boosters, and agents.

With the endorsements, media appearances and sneaker deals, coaches like Calipari become richer and larger than life, while most of the student-athletes that they coach fade to the background as a forgotten footnote in their triumphant journey. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.