Calipari deal sends wrong message in tough times Print
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Tuesday, 31 March 2009 22:20
NCAAB Headline News


 While John Calipari was deliberating, Greg Bamberger was cutting.
The men's soccer team at Kutztown University got the ax Tuesday as the Pennsylvania college moved to cut costs in the athletic department. So, too, did the swimming team.
``It wasn't one of my best days as athletic director,'' Bamberger said.
It wasn't a good day in Memphis either.
Business leaders came carrying gifts and fans brought homemade signs to Calipari's front yard urging him to stay, both to no avail. A local television outlet broadcast a mournful stream on its Web site of the door at the University of Memphis athletic department, but Calipari was already as good as gone.
sh.
Reports varied, but they were all essentially the same. A million or two here or there didn't matter much because when it was all added up it added up to this: Calipari will be paid more than anyone has ever been paid to coach a team of players who will get nothing more than some books and meal money as their part of the bargain.
Four million a year, maybe five. All for a guy whose next national championship will be his first.
Bamberger could have used some of that money, maybe even saved soccer and swimming with it. He runs the entire athletic department at Kutztown on about the same amount of money Kentucky will be paying every year to its new coach.
Like Calipari's former school, the Kutztown Golden Bears had a good year on the court. The men's basketball team went 28-5 and advanced to the Division II Atlantic Region final before their season came to an end.
For that, ninth-year head coach Bernie Driscoll didn't make enough to pay Calipari's country club dues.
``It's less than six figures,'' Bamberger said. ``Much less than that.''
Kutztown, a school with 10,393 students, barely registers on the athletic map. The Golden Bears play their home games in a 3,400-seat campus gym, don't give out full scholarships, and have no chance of ever appearing on ESPN.
ng Calipari had trouble doing at Memphis. There are no recruiting scandals, no scandalous payouts for coaches.
In a perfect world, Kutztown and hundreds of schools like it are the face of college sports. In our very imperfect world, Kentucky and the obscene millions it is throwing Calipari's way in a desperate attempt to get back on top in basketball are all anyone sees.
It's not just Kentucky. Florida pays Billy Donovan $3.5 million a year, Bill Self earns $3 million at Kansas, and the list of coaching millionaires grows every year.
But $35 million for a basketball coach? A college basketball coach at a state university? At the same time Kentucky may have to pay fired coach Billy Gillispie another $10 million or so just to get him out of their hair?
The people in Kentucky apparently think Calipari is worth it. They're beyond gleeful, certain that the signing of a coach who was 137-14 over the last four years means a return of the Wildcats to national prominence.
It probably does. Calipari is a hard-nosed recruiter who got more than his share of top talent at Memphis, and he figures to land the same quality players at Kentucky. If you can get players in college basketball, nothing else really matters, assuming they can stay academically eligible.
You've got to wonder, though, about the timing of it all.
urely, Kentuckians have noticed that the nation is teetering on the brink of economic calamity, and that one out of every 10 people in their state is unemployed. They have to know that companies are closing, people are losing their houses, and that even the president says things are likely to get worse before they get better.
Yet they stand and cheer when a taxpayer-supported university spends $35 million for a coach while at the same time the budget for professors and everyone else at the state's universities is being cut 2 percent and the state is digging into its ``rainy day'' money to stop further bleeding?
Someday, historians are going to look back at this period and try to figure it out. They won't be able to, because there's no rational reason for the irrational exuberance of fans who simply don't know any better.
What they will find is that on the last day of March in 2009 a school in Pennsylvania had to let two coaches who were barely making rent money go and tell two teams full of student-athletes that they no longer have a sport to compete in.
On that same day, they'll see that a private jet whisked the new University of Kentucky coach to Lexington so he could formally claim his $35 million grand prize.
And they'll have just one question: Just what were they thinking?
----
ional sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org
 

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