LEXINGTON – Now that Kentucky has won the national championship for John Calipari, the UK coach is sure to get more verbal abuse for his so-called one-and-done system that results in pretty much a roster overhaul each year.
Though, to be precise, there are only two sure-fire one-and-dones on this year’s team – Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The only other freshman who might leave is Marquis Teague.
My feeling: Teague isn’t ready for the NBA, but if he opts for the draft, he’ll probably go first-round and in that case, who can blame him for leaving?
The other guy who will leave is four-and-done Darius Miller (no choice), and likely a pair of two-and-dones, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.
In other words, the only player to return next season who will make a significant impact is freshman forward Kyle Wiltjer.
But, here’s the thing: All those people whining about Calipari’s annual roster makeover are largely both hypocrites and jealous. If their coach and their school could get the kind of freshmen talent Calipari draws to UK, they’d take those players and celebrate. This past week I heard a radio talk show host in Louisville suggest that U of L coach Rick Pitino never wants to have more than one or two so-called one-and-done players.
Question: How do we know this? Because he says so? Really? Let me be more specific: What if Teague had stuck with his commitment last spring to come to Louisville, and then, say, Anthony Davis told Pitino he’d like to join Teague in a Cardinals’ uniform. Pitino, or any other coach, would have gladly taken Teague and Davis, right?
Take it one step further. What if, then, Kidd-Gilchrist had called Pitino and said he’d like to sign with Louisville. To hear the radio guy tell it, Pitino would have told one of those three prep stars to go somewhere else.
And that’s not to pick on Pitino. It’s really not. You could fill in the name of any major college coach with dreams of a national championship and say the same.
I do have a funny sidenote: In the aftermath of the Final Four semifinal games Saturday night in New Orleans, an obnoxious UK fan got in an argument with an obnoxious Ohio State fan (both were over the edge because of alcohol), and the Ohio State fan said sarcastically: “Who’s going to be on your team next season?” And the UK fan retorted: “Five guys who can beat Ohio State.”
At a Final Four press conference over the weekend, a reporter asked Calipari: “Coach, I know you don’t like the one-and-done. Do you ever get sorry for having to apologize for it all the time?”
“I don’t apologize,” Calipari replied. “It’s not my rule. I’ve already given a great solution that the NCAA and the schools take care of these kids’ disability insurance which they must take a loan out and pay themselves, which is upwards of 10 or 12 thousand per year. Their families, if they’re eligible for that loan, should have a hardship loan ... those kids that are eligible for that.
“Then I said if the kids stay for two years or more, they should get a year off their contract in the NBA so they get to the bigger contract quicker. And if they graduate in three or four years, they have an increase in their (NBA) pay 15 to 20 percent.
“There’s a solution.”
I don’t know all the fine print in the current NBA contracts, but I think what Calipari is trying to say about those contracts is this: First round draft picks are slotted into specific pay scales for, I believe, three years, meaning they can’t become a free agent and really earn mega million contracts until after that point. So Calipari is merely saying that the longer a college player stays in college, the quicker he should be able to get to the more lucrative NBA money.
“I don’t like the rules,” Calipari reiterated. “I want Anthony to come back and be my point guard next year. That’s what I really want. There’s only two solutions to it: Either I can recruit players who are not as good as the players I’m recruiting, or I can try to convince guys that should leave to stay for me.”
Calipari then noted that North Carolina is losing three players early to the NBA Draft this spring. Why don’t we hear outrage about that?
“I’m going to do what’s right for our kids,” Calipari said. “At the end of the day, I don’t apologize for anything we do.
“We had a 3.0 (team) grade point average last year, 2.8 last term,” he added. “We have the highest APR ... how they judge our retention and our academics - the highest in the SEC. They go to class. They do what they’re supposed to do.
“I mean, you know, Steve Jobs left (college early). Bill Gates left. The integrity of their schools were at stake when they left. They should have stayed and not changed the world.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert also spoke in New Orleans over Final Four weekend, and he suggested that this one-and-done storm might be just a bit overblown.
“The reality is, of course, in any one year we’ve got, I don’t know what the numbers are, maybe 15 out of 5,500 (college basketball players) kids who are one-and-done,” Emmert said. “While the one-and-dones get an enormous amount of attention, the reality is they are a tiny, tiny fraction of the student-athletes who compete in basketball and compete in this tournament.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I would prefer to have a different model,” Emmert added. “I think most people would prefer to have a model that keeps young men and women in college as long as you can. But I don’t think we should blow the one-and-done out of proportion and suggest that’s somehow undermining all of academics in the NCAA. It’s 15 kids. They have a chance to go play professionally because that’s what the rules allow and they all want to pursue it, so that’s fine.”
Emmert says he has spoken with NBA commissioner David Stern about the issue “a number of times.”
“This rule is embedded in the labor contract between the two bodies,” Emmert said. So it’s not ours to negotiate. The NBA and NCAA do indeed have different goals. Our goals are to put the best collegiate athletes on the court and provide them with educational opportunities. That’s what we do. The NBA’s interests, of course, are to produce the best professional basketball teams that they can.
“So we don’t have a commonality of interests, but in some of those areas, we’ll pursue them and do everything we can do to be collaborative.”
It’s also true, however, that Stern just recently was quoted as saying the NCAA could require student-athletes to stay in school “if they wanted to.”
To which, Emmert replies, in a nutshell: “We don’t have a vehicle for mandating that anyone stay in school. There’s just not a vehicle by which that could occur. But are we going to continue to pursue things that make it attractive as possible for people to stay in school and finish their degree? Yes.
“I think the important point is that we want students to come to universities so that they can get an education while they are developing their skills and abilities,” he added. “For that very small proportion that can go play professional sport, we want to help them make that transition as carefully and thoughtfully as they can. I’m certainly not opposed to people going and playing professional sport. I think that’s terrific. But we write our rules and create our processes for the 5500, not for the 15.”
Emmert commented briefly on some of the ideas that Calipari and others have tossed out, specifically about the subject of additional disability insurance to college athletes.
“We do, in fact, provide catastrophic insurance right now on top of the insurance that’s provided by the institution, so I’m not exactly sure what Coach Calipari was meaning in describing that,” Emmert said. “There are always opportunities to improve those programs, I’m sure.
“There’s a lot of discussion around various ways in which you can provide money to student-athletes,” he added. “There are people that would like us to do direct compensation, just pay them. There’s the sponsorship model (allow the athletes to be compensated for marketing themselves). There’s a model where every kid gets $20,000.
“All of those things are simply different models of throwing away the collegiate model of athletics. The whole principle of the collegiate model of athletics is these are college kids who play sports. If they want to be professional athletes, those options are available to them, and I would encourage them to pursue them, and I hope they do well at them.”