There Are 33 Million Reasons John Calipari Ain’t Going Anywhere

Brackets busted when 14-seed Oakland upset Calipari's 3-seed Kentucky

Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Kentucky Wildcats are financially tied to John Calipari.
Joe Sargent/Getty

After millions of brackets that had Kentucky going deep in the NCAA Basketball Tournament busted when Oakland upset John Calipari’s Wildcats, “Fire Cal” began trending on the social media platform previously known as Twitter. Kentucky’s loss, which was the lowlight of a bad day for the SEC that also saw No. 8 seed Mississippi State and No. 6 seed South Carolina go down to higher-seeded opponents, made it five straight years that the Wildcats did not advance past the opening weekend of The Big Dance. (There was no March Madness in 2020.) The SEC began the first round of the tournament with eight teams but is down to just five entering the second day of the Madness.

Given his No. 3-seeded team’s 80-76 first-round exit to an unheralded No. 14 squad — boosted by 10 three-pointers from 24-year-old Jack Gohlke who previously spent five years at D-II Hillsdale College — Calipari is perceived to be on the hot seat in Lexington. But Kentucky has one big reason not to fire the 65-year-old coach. Well, technically, 34,968,749 small ones.

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Per the terms of Calipari’s extension, a 10-year deal worth a total of $86 million, he would be owed a buyout of $34,968,749 as of April 1 if he is fired without cause, according to The Courier Journal. Even for a program that has to be seething at seeing their collection of five-star prospects fall to Gohlke and the Golden Grizzlies, swallowing nearly $35 million would be a basketball-sized pill. As bad as it looks now, there’s little reason to think Kentucky will pay a small fortune to jettison a coach who is 32-11 in NCAA Tournament games during his tenure, especially considering he’s still a helluva recruiter.

Speaking during his postgame press conference Thursday in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Calipari commended the Wildcat fans who attended the loss. “I’ll say it again. I feel bad for our fans who all traveled again,” he said. “They’re here. These kids — they know they’re playing for these fans and our fans, who are the best in the country. They travel. They’re everywhere. And I imagine they’re hurting like we are hurting. So I’ll look at other ways that we can do stuff.”

Some are calling for Kentucky to look at other coaches, but’s it’s simply too expensive for the school to puts its money where those mouths are.

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