KC sports will see their local colleges potentially effected by a John Calipari contact suggestion. Its most simple and surface consideration seems like a good idea for coaches at colleges and universities, but a deeper look reveals consequences that even Calipari himself wouldn’t be up for.
After the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in a Southeastern Conference game on Saturday night, John Calipari defended his counterpart Georgia head coach Mark Fox in a post-game press conference.
As part of his rant, Calipari made an interesting suggestion to those in his profession at a similar level, like the head football and men’s basketball coaches at Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri.
"We’re firing coaches in midseason. Are you s—-ing me? We’re firing coaches in midseason. You know what I’m putting in my contract? You can fire me at midseason, but you’re going to have to pay me $3 million. Oh, you’ll let me stay now, won’t you. … Every coach in the country, put it in your contract!"
While the idea of creating an additional penalty for the timing of when coaches are fired sounds like an attractive addendum for coaches, the details of actually enacting that kind of a change in the relationships between such coaches and their employers have some undesirable consequences for both parties.
Why It Won’t Work
Adding a clause like that which Calipari suggested at a private school like Baylor or BYU would be simple, if the school is willing to agree to it. That in and of itself is unlikely. At public universities like Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri, it becomes much more difficult.
Football and men’s basketball head coaches at public universities are not only employees of the schools they work for, but more accurately they are employees of the states which fund those schools.
As such, they ultimately answer to the state’s board of regents for public universities.
States would understandably be reluctant to give a coach, even one with a track record and personal brand power such as Calipari has, such a clause in his contract because of the legal fallout. As a hypothetical situation, suppose that Kansas men’s basketball head coach Bill Self insisted on Kansas amending his contract to contain such language.
If the state acquiesced to Self’s demand, other state employees in Kansas could bring complaints before the National Labor Relations Board arguing that the state was giving preferential treatment to Self. They could argue that as state employees who also have a contract with the state of Kansas, they should be afforded the same job security.
Kansas could argue that Self has a unique set of circumstances regarding his employment with the state, thus why he is the highest-paid state employee by such a large margin, and diffuse the complaint in that way. It’s still a risky move by the state, however.
Other coaches at public colleges and universities, whose duties as state employees are more similar to Self’s, might stand a better chance of filing such a complaint successfully. Giving such a benefit to Self might mean giving such a benefit to all of the coaches at Kansas’ public colleges and universities.
If he were genuinely determined to get that language installed into his contract, there is a way that Self could likely get it, but the by-products of that course of action are undesirable for him.
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Collectively Bargaining as Coaches
Self and the rest of the coaches in Kansas could form a union and collectively bargain with the state for a benefit like this or any other they wish.
The same goes for Barry Odom and Kim Anderson with the rest of the coaches in Missouri. The added power of organized labor could entice the states to make this and other concessions.
The huge downside for coaches like Self, however, is that they also would have to make concessions and live within the parameters of a collectively-bargained contract between the state and the union, not between the state and him individually.
Most likely gone would be the bonuses for taking the Jayhawks to the Elite Eight, Final Four, etc., that are built into Self’s individual contract with Kansas.
It’s unlikely that Self or any of the other coaches at Kansas and Missouri’s premiere public universities would be willing to give up the tenants of their individual contracts they enjoy to add something like insurance against being fired midseason.
In the end, the current system of negotiating buyouts for coaches who are terminated before their contracts expire will probably continue. If the contracts are written and potentially litigated correctly, such negotiations can actually represent a savings for the states whose regents make such moves.
It’s not drastically different from what Calipari has suggested ultimately, and it avoids all the legal drama that trying to bring such a change to the system would represent.