ohn Calipari's new contract with the University of Memphis basketball team is a sign of the college basketball times: Employing a high-profile basketball coach means paying the price.
Calipari will receive a raise of 81.8 percent, from $550,000 to $1 million, under the terms of a new five-year contract announced by the U of M Friday afternoon. U of M athletic director R. C. Johnson and Calipari had agreed to the contract several weeks ago, but university budget meetings delayed its release.
Calipari, who led the Tigers to a 21-15 record and a third-place finish in the NIT in his first season, also stands to receive a $1 million cash bonus if he completes the five-year deal. In addition to the $1 million annually, he can earn generous incentives, up to $380,000 per year, for things like winning conference titles, earning Coach of the Year honors and advancing in the NCAA Tournament.
There is also a $15,000 clothing allowance.
The contract replaces the one Calipari signed last year when he took the job. It includes a clause stipulating a $550,000 payment to the school if Calipari wants to leave during the first three years of the contract, a $200,000 payment if he wants to leave during the fourth year, and $100,000 if he wants to leave during the fifth year.
Calipari's base salary is $139,050, with the remainder of the compensation package coming from privately raised money and covering three areas: apparel contract, radio and television appearances and public relations.
"First of all, I wanted to do it because I thought it was the right thing to do," Johnson said. "No. 2, in this day and age, you need to step up to the plate and show your commitment."
Said Calipari, who can also make money on outside endorsement deals: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank R. C. and the alumni and supporters who helped make this happen for me and my family. I can tell you my family is very happy here in Memphis and we look forward to a long association with the university."
Johnson approached Calipari about restructuring his contract in early March. In an early April meeting that came after Calipari had agreed to talk to South Carolina about its vacant men's basketball coaching position, Johnson and Calipari tentatively agreed to terms.
South Carolina was prepared to offer a salary of $1.5 million to a high-profile coach, and also contacted Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, among others.
"He just told me, `This is what I want to do for you' and I said, `That's fine,' " Calipari said at the time. "South Carolina was not even mentioned."
Salaries for college basketball coaches have escalated, with Conference USA rival Louisville recently agreeing to a tentative contract with new coach Rick Pitino that is worth $12.25 million over six years, not including money for apparel and TV deals.
Smith recently received a contract worth $1.5 million per year with a $1 million bonus if he completes a six-year contract.
Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is renegotiating his contract with athletic director Bob Goin, and stands to receive a loyalty bonus of more than $1 million after next season.
Even Johnson admits it is hard to justify the current price structure, though he added that U of M interim president Ralph Faudree and incoming president Shirley Raines were comfortable with the contract.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," Johnson said. "In the grand scheme of things, the impact of us to the university is completely out of focus. We are just a very small blip, but we are extremely visible.
"There's no basketball coach worth that much more than an outstanding professor, but we're dealing with the law of supply and demand."
Johnson points out that the U of M is setting new records for donations to Tiger Clubs with Calipari as coach, and, last season, the program set school records for tickets sold in a season (290,864) and per-game average (17,110).
o, you wanted to be major league, Memphis.
You wanted to join the big-time.
Well, now you're about to spend $250 million for a new basketball arena.
And the local college basketball coach is guaranteed a cool million a year.
How does that old adage go, again?
Be careful what you wish for . . .
The University of Memphis issued the press release Friday. Basketball coach John Calipari has been given a whopping raise to $1 million a year for five years.
And if Calipari actually hangs around and completes the deal at those subsistence wages, he'll be given a $1 million bonus for his trouble.
You can hear the gasps already. Also, the jokes. Just imagine what sort of raise Calipari would have been given if the Tigers had actually made the NCAA Tournament.
But this is the price. This is the going rate for a big-time basketball coach.
Kentucky coach Tubby Smith just got a raise to $1.5 million a year. Rick Pitino is guaranteed $12.25 million over six years not including his clothing or TV deals.
You can say all you want that it's insane, ridiculous, absurd, silly - and, by the way, all those adjectives would fit just fine - but if a school wants to attract and keep a serious national basketball coach, it has to pay serious national wages.
And it's the same with the NBA team and the NBA arena.
Sure, it would be nice if Michael Heisley agreed to pay for the building by himself.
It would be nice if he took the $100 million or so of FedEx money and contributed it to arena costs.
It would also be nice if teachers earned as much as professional athletes, if CEOs didn't get obscene bonuses in down years, if national merit scholars got as much ink as Parade All-Americans.
But that's not the way it works and no amount of wishing is going to make it otherwise.
Nashville has two major league teams and two new arenas. You know who paid the vast majority of the construction costs for those buildings?
Oh, there's still a choice to be made here. The choice is to opt out of the athletic arms race altogether.
Don't aim to build a city like Charlotte or Atlanta. Aim to build a city like Charleston or Mobile instead.
Don't aim to build a basketball program like Michigan State or Kansas. Aim to build a basketball program like Christian Brothers or Rhodes.
There might be some dignity in that choice. Common sense, even.
But right now, Memphis seems bound for the big time.
You can tell by the dollar signs.