Was Calipari Worth Every Dollar . . . and More?

Posted by John Branston on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 at 11:44 AM

A new book, "Varsity Green," by Mark Yost, suggests that high-paid college coaches like John Calipari are well worth their multimillion-dollar salaries.

The book examines, among others, former Cincinnati coach (and Memphis arch rival) Bob Huggins. And the chapter titled "The NCAA: Cartel or Mafia?" should be irresistible to Tiger fans. A sample: "The NCAA's front business is amateurism" but its real business is "extortion."

"Bob Huggins is, himself, a national brand. And in many ways he made us a national brand too," says Bob Cavello, athletic director for business development at K-State, where Huggins coached for one year after leaving Cincinnati.

The University of Memphis gets fragged by Yost in the Huggins chapter: "Historically, K-State has been one of the leading public institutions in production of Marshall, Truman, and Rhodes scholars. In short, K-State was no Kentucky or Memphis, where basketball ranks first ahead of everything else, and bio lab is a distant third or fourth on the college president's list of top priorities."

Memphis had Calipari for nine years before he bolted for Kentucky. The basketball program was floundering under former Coach Tic Price, going 13-15 before Calipari was hired. Attendance increased, first at The Pyramid, then at FedEx Forum. The Tigers put together a big win streak and a NCAA Tournament Finals appearance. Of course, those accomplishments are in jeopardy because of NCAA violations involving Derrick Rose. But the Tigers are arguably as much or more of a national brand in college basketball as Kansas State, as evidenced by near-sellouts at home and on the road this Cal-less season.

Yost argues that coaches like Huggins not only boost athletic programs, they "breathe life into a school's brand and marketing power." Money flows in from Nike contracts, apparel sales, booster donations, season ticket sales, and television appearances.

What is less clear is the cost of a losing program or a disgraced program.

After Tommy West was canned as football coach, I suggested the University of Memphis Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research do a timely study with full disclosure of the costs and benefits of football and basketball, and perhaps take seriously West's suggestion that UM should either buck up or give it up. That didn't happen, at least not yet, but "Varsity Green" fills some of the void.

Such a study would be a feast for fans, students, and non-fans. I made my last college tuition payment for my youngest child last year. Her private college, Elon, doesn't play big-time football, but plans to put more money into its football program. One factor is the positive impact football has on recruiting male students in general, not just athletes. Colleges want to avoid the tipping point of a male enrollment of below 40 percent.

My oldest graduated from Tennessee. No need to rehash their troubles in the Kiffin debacle. Closer to my heart, my alma mater, Michigan, is trying to recoup a huge investment in "The Big House" in Ann Arbor but has had two straight losing seasons under Coach Rich Rodriguez. I like to delude myself sometimes into thinking I'm above the irrationality of fandom. My family and friends know better. Go Blue.

Comments (2)

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As far as I'm concern, there is nobody worth the money these people pay for the coaches, players, etc, when there is so much unemployment, people going hungry, single women who are working two jobs to make ends meet, senior citizens who are having to make the choice of whether they eat or pay their rent, utilities,put gas in their cars,whatever the normal citizen in this country does to make an honest living. You say,'Yes they should pay them this big salaries, but what happens when the people who come to these games cannot pay for the tickets, WHO DO YOU THINK WILL PAY THESE BIGWIG COACHES, PLAYERS, ETC.? It will not be the president of the school. It will be us JOHN OR JANE DOE CITIZENS who will have to pay these people their salaries with MORE TAX INCREASES OR MORE PROPERTY TAXES. What they should say to these coaches is this"Coach Cal you want to play coach of Kentucky or FOR U of M, then here is the deal. You be the coach, and for every game that you win, then we will pay you lets say $100.00 and if your lucky; and we get a FULL HOUSE then we will pay you $200.00. How many caoches do you think will be willing to be the coach if they put it to them that way? Not very many, but they want the schools or the people in the community to pay this ENOROMUS SALARY THAT THEY THINK THAT THEY ARE OWED OR DUE, but where do you think that we the people of this community will get the money to pay this salary? TAX INCREASES, NO AIR-CONDITION FOR THE KIDS GOING TO SCHOOL, NO PAY RAISES FOR THE POLICE, FIREFIGHTERS, SHERIFF DEPUTIES, DOCTORS, NURSES,TEACHERS, OR THE PARENTS WHO WILL BE PAYING FOR THE COLLEGE TUTION THAT THESE COACHES WILL BE COACHING AT.

No we need to take a stand and stop all of these players, coaches, etc. from getting salaries so big that the econimic communities who pay these salaries do not have to worry about paying their electric bill, house payment, rent, groceries, clothes, medical expenses, medicine, gas for their cars, and just the everyday neccessities that the average citizen has to pay on their minimum wage salaries. Take it from me, if they had to go to the mailbox and look in there and see a disconnect notice from MLGW, phone bill, your house payment is past due and you are facing foreclosure, no medical insurance because it either means you keep your job without medical insurance; or loose your job; what would you choose?, or your child comes up to you and ask you what is for dinner and there is nothing to eat because you do not have enough money to buy groceries, then they would understand why so many people think that they do not deserve these salaries. I am one of these people, and yes I have gone through all of the above mentioned items, and it urks me to think that they get paid $4.65 million dollars a year and all they do is yell, scream, cuss, throw hissy fits if they loose and blame everybody but themselves for them loosing the game. GROW UP AND LIVE LIKE MOST NORMAL PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY $7.50 an hour for 8 hours a day and live like most of us do pay check to pay check.

Posted by Gail on 01/22/2010 at 11:04 PM

Gail. That post was AWESOME!. I like the part at the end about growing up and living like everyone else. BOOYAH!. Who do these people think they are? Packing 18,000 people into an arena everynight! Nothing to it. Just screaming and cussing. Those coaches should be ashamed for achieving that level of success. And furthermore we should teach our kids to avoid such success! It leads to weird things like security. DOWN WITH SUCCESS. DOWN WITH CAPITALISM. DOWN WITH MATH AND ROI ANALYSIS!!!

Posted by 38103 on 01/23/2010 at 12:03 PM
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