Kentucky coach John Calipari is a man of solutions.
Addressing the FBI investigation that cost Rick Pitino his job at Louisville, Calipari said college basketball should take a page from college baseball's playbook.
As part of the ongoing federal investigation that began in 2015, four NCAA assistant coaches were indicted by federal authorities last week in a fraud and corruption scheme that alleged numerous instances of bribes to athletes. Federal prosecutors referred to the findings as “the dark underbelly of college athletics.”
Calipari thinks much of the corruption can be eliminated by allowing players to hire an agent — before and after receiving an NCAA scholarship, so long as they are likely to be drafted in the NBA or make money professionally. The NCAA permits high school baseball players drafted in the MLB amateur draft to hire agents to negotiate professional contracts — without sacrificing college eligibility if they fail to finalize a contract with a team.
"Players should be allowed representation just like they have in baseball," Calipari told FanRag Sports. "They don't need a new model because there's already a model in place. That's what they do in baseball."
That model, in Calipari's eyes, would alleviate the middle men — six of whom were indicted by federal authorities last week.
Calipari's comments fall in line with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's comments about the sport in which he said, "We in college have not changed as much as the (recruiting) landscape has changed. … When we recruit, the grassroots culture of basketball before we get them has changed dramatically. Before these kids ever come to us, we are not the only ones recruiting these youngsters. Talent is being recruited all the time in every shape and form."
The federal investigation also notably implicated major shoe and apparel companies, including Adidas. One of the defendants, Merl Code, left Nike to work for Adidas, and is charged with assisting another Adidas employee in paying high school players with the goal of them signing with Adidas-sponsored schools before eventually signing with the shoe company in the professional ranks.
Kentucky is a Nike-sponsored school. Calipari, who has hauled in more one-and-done players than any other coach in the sport, thinks a solution in that realm is paying players for their likeness — instead of letting the NCAA and universities profit or shoe companies get entangled in under-the-table deals — but to defer that money until those players leave the school, to keep their amateur status.
"Players should be able to earn income because of their name, their signature, and their likeness," Calipari said. "If a uniform is sold with a player's name on it, the player should get a percentage on it. If they want to go out and sign autographs, let them sign autographs. The money should be deferred. They should be able to sign a shoe contract too, but the money should be deferred unless it's used by the parents of the player for transportation or expenses to come and see the kid's play. They're not professionals if that happens and it probably eliminates a lot of stuff."