It once seemed like a foregone conclusion that John Calipari would finish out his career in Lexington. Now? The future is unclear.
Is it time for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats to part ways?
It’s something Kentucky fans never thought they’d need to consider, and it seemed unthinkable just a couple of short years ago.
But here we are. On Jan. 9, 2023, the Wildcats sit at 10-5, are unranked, and are coming up on four years since their last NCAA Tournament win.
The cries from Big Blue Nation are getting louder with each passing defeat, and Kentucky’s humiliating 78-52 loss to Alabama on Saturday did nothing to help matters. With Calipari in the midst of a 10-year deal with a hefty buyout attached, however, Kentucky finds itself in a tough situation.
That is unless a certain school in Austin comes calling.
The timing could work out just right for all parties involved. Kentucky wants a change but can’t afford to fire Calipari, Calipari might want out, and Texas could certainly use a Hall of Fame coach with a national championship and almost 800 wins to his name.
Can everyone come together and make it happen? We’ll see. For now, let’s dive into the John Calipari contract at Kentucky.
John Calipari Contract and Salary Breakdown at Kentucky
Signed: June 13, 2019
Term: 10 years
Base Salary: $400,000
John Calipari supplemental pay by year:
Unlike many coaches — particularly ones who have been at their school for as long as Calipari, who took the Kentucky job in 2009 — Coach Cal doesn’t have a retention bonus or any real bonus structure whatsoever tacked onto his contract. The only additional compensation he is entitled to be a $50,000 bump if the Wildcats achieve a 975 APR score in an academic year.
In guaranteed money, this means Calipari will make $8,500,000 this year, as well as the next two years before that number jumps to $9,000,000 for the remainder of his contract. Overall, the total value remaining on Calipari’s contract, beginning with the 2022-23 season, is $61.5 million.
This contract isn’t guaranteed to last through 2028-29, however. After the 2023-24 season, Calipari will have a chance to opt out of the deal and accept a role as Special Assistant to the Athletic Director. If he were to exercise that option, Calipari would keep his $400,000 base salary for the remainder of his contract, along with an additional $550,000 per year in supplemental pay. That would make his total compensation $950,000 per year.
John Calipari Buyout Details
In addition to Calipari taking the special assistant opt-out, there are two other ways this could all end early: Calipari can elect to step away, or Kentucky can fire him.
If Calipari leaves, say for a head coaching job and a new wardrobe of burnt orange, he can do so without paying any sort of penalty. His buyout is precisely $0. But if Kentucky wants to fire him without cause, the school is going to owe him 75% of what remains in base and supplemental pay. Here’s how that breaks down by year:
- If Calipari is fired after 2022-23: $39,750,000 (plus 75% of his remaining pay from the date he is fired to June 29, 2023)
- 2023-24: $33,375,000
- 2024-25: $27,000,000
- 2025-26: $20,250,000
- 2026-27: $13,500,000
- 2027-28: $6,750,000
Suffice it to say that unless Calipari chooses to leave Kentucky, either for Texas or because he’s simply had enough, the university isn’t going to fire him after this year. Even for a school in the SEC, $40 million is a lot of money to pay somebody to go away, and that doesn’t even account for whatever they’d have to pay his replacement.
In addition to his pay, Calipari is entitled to the following, per his contract:
- Two “late model, quality automobiles” for his official and personal use
- 20 lower-level tickets to all home and away men’s basketball games
- 8 tickets to all home football games
- 10% university contribution to his retirement account
- 20 paid vacation days per year
- University-paid membership to a local golf or country club
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