In a wide-ranging, deep interview with SportingNews’ Mike DeCourcey, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari covers a lot of ground. But the coach who has had two former teams’ appearances in the NCAA Final Four vacated due to rules violations saved his boldest prediction for the league that stripped him of those honors.
Calipari thinks the “big boys” of college athletics—the major conferences and their member schools—will soon get fed up with the bureaucracy of the NCAA and break away from the league. He also scoffs at the notion that the NCAA has the student-athlete’s best interests in mind, a statement that is sure to raise some ire in Indianapolis.
SN: Something people use against you a lot are the vacated Final Fours. One thing we wondered, how do the players who were on those teams feel about that designation?
CALIPARI: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Memphis kids come back and sue the NCAA. Those guys are saying, “We earned those wins. ... None of us knew anything about anything, Coach. That’s wrong. Why are they punishing me and the number of wins I had?” Like, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier had the most wins of anyone over a four-year period, but they take away 38.
They’re not going to be around long. The NCAA will not. Before I retire from coaching, they will no longer oversee college athletics. They will, but it won’t be the four power conferences—they’ll be on their own. And the main thing is, do you really care about these kids? They’ll get mad that I say it. The NCAA Tournament, for example. It’s more about the selection committee getting on TV, everybody getting their tickets on the aisle, down low, all the parties they go to, the traveling. But we don’t take the parents of the participants. But they take their kids and their families.
The officials will get better hotels than some of their teams. And I know it for a fact. The decisions they make on the $2,000 (expense allowance for student-athletes)—it should have been $4,000. It’s a stipend. It’s not salary. It’s not “pay-for-play.” It’s a stipend. It’s expenses. And then schools vote against it. All this stuff piles up to where people are going to say, “Enough’s enough.”
The environment described by Calipari is a primary reason why the coaches, administrators and commissioners of the power conferences want absolutely nothing to do with a major college football playoff run by the NCAA.
They are presently outsourcing their postseason to the bowls, allowing the bowl executives to enjoy all of the perks Calipari says the NCAA officials get from March Madness. Once the powers-that-be get their arms around the situation and figure out a way to in-source the football postseason, the NCAA will no longer be needed and the bowls’ power over the postseason will be greatly diminished.
At that point, those powers-that-be will start to wonder: what’s the point of remaining in the behemoth NCAA? They can create their own playoff system, negotiate with bowls to provide consolation prizes for programs that don’t make the cut and accept competitive bids from venues seeking to host playoff games.
League President Mark Emmert has to see the handwriting on the wall, too. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be spending so much energy and making the rubber chicken circuit trying to convince people that he’s trying to reform the way the NCAA conducts business.