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Gillispie and Kentucky: A Relationship Improving Exponentially

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During Saturday’s Kentucky-Arkansas game, Tim Brando (when not making 1980s catchphrase references), referred to the “partnership” between Coach Billy Gillispie and Kentucky improving and the fact that Coach Clyde was “settling into” his role as the Kentucky coach. While much of what Brando says can often be ignored (he is best known for simply adding the phrase “the iron unkind” to the national sports lexicon), this was the first realization by a national media member of what those on the local front have realized for some time now. Kentucky and Billy Gillispie are finally becoming a solid fit. When we look back on Coach Clyde’s time at Kentucky, we will probably realize that in hindsight, the first few months were rockier than either party could have imagined. Gillispie was somewhat overwhelmed by all of the extracurricular activities that came with being a UK basketball coach. Unlike at Texas A&M, where basketball was a part of the life of the campus, at Kentucky basketball IS not only the life of the campus, but the state as a whole. Gillispie likely didnt realize or plan for a situation in which there existed multiple alumni and media responsibilities that no other coach in the nation has to go through. At his core, Billy Gillispie is a basketball coach….but at Kentucky, one must also be a spokesman for the program, the school and the state. And at first, Gillispie balked a bit at these extra roles….but slowly over time he has embraced them to a greater degree. He will never be Rick Pitino soaking up the Kentucky spotlight. But he is becoming a comfortable Billy Gillispie, happy to undertake the duties of the throne.

Nevertheless, some of the residue from the bumpy start has led others to speculate that the prospect of Gillispie leaving is still strong. Faced with no facts to confirm these suspicions, wild rumors have been started about positions at places like Oklahoma State, and these rumors have gained some credibility in the mainstream press. At the heart of all of these stories is the same hook upon which all thoughts of Gillispie being unhappy at UK begin. Gillispie and UK critics all point to the fact that Gillispie has not signed a “contract” as evidence he will leave. And initially there seems like some type of legitimacy to this argument. After all, if he likes it here so much, why not sign a long-term deal? However, this argument simply misstates the position that Billy Clyde has with the University and does not reflect the already agreed upon agreement between the two parties.

I have been able to obtain a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between Gillispie and UK. The Memorandum is interesting (at least to me) for what it states are the explicit provisions of Gillispie’s deal with the University. The significant parts are as follows:

— $400,000 base salary with an escalator of $25,000 a year
— $1.9 million a year for “Broadcasting and Endorsements” with an escalator of $50,000 a year
— Supplemental consideration of up to $850,000 for acheiving athletic and academic benchmarks, which include:

SEC Regular Season Title: $50,000
SEC Tournament Title: $50,000
NCAA Tournament Appearance: $50,000
NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: $75,000
NCAA Tournament Final 4: $150,000
NCAA Championship: $375,000
Academic Progress Rate of 950+:$50,000
Graduation Rate of 75%+: $50,000

— Another $250,000 contributed annually by the University to a deferred compensation plan that vests four years after the date of employment if he remains coach through that date. Over the seven years of the contract, the University will contribute $1.75 million to this plan.
— Regular Staff benefits (YEAH MEDICAL!)
— Reimbursement of Moving Expenses (He can hire Two Men and a Truck now!)
— One vehicle provided by University
— A Club Membership

In addition, the contract prohibits Gillispie from getting compensation from other sources and holds that the “University shall not be liable for any payments or benefits after the date of termination.” Also:

— A termination for cause provision is to be agreed upon by the parties
— Termination without cause requires a $1.5 million annual payment for at least 48 months
— Acknowledgement of acceptance of the NCAA policies for enforcement of NCAA rules.

Finally, and rarely reported in the media, this Memorandum of Understanding includes a BUYOUT provision that would require Gillispie to pay $3 million the first year, $2 million the second year and $ 1 million the third and fourth year if he leaves the University. This provision has already been agreed to by the parties and is CURRENTLY in operation. Thus by the current agreement, a decision by Gillispie to leave would include the same buyout that will ultimately be added to the final contract. That in and of itself, should provide enough some indication to national media members that Gillispie staying is for real.

The Memorandum does state that its terms are contingent upon executing a final employment contract, which of course does not yet exist. But its terms are actively being used by both parties and represent the course of performance between the two of them at this time. The Memorandum states that Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart hopes to conclude the process of finalizing the contract within 60 days….something that obviously hasnt happened yet. Nevertheless the material provisions of the Understanding are being executed, and you can be sure that the University likely believes that the buyout clause will have the same force that the salary clauses do in the current Agreement.

I put this info up here for two reasons. One, I think it likely is interesting for fans to see just what the agreement between the head coach and UK looks like. Everything in the agreement is listed above….that is the entire extent of it. So now you know how your coach is paid, if you didnt already. But second, it is often wrongly said that Gillispie’s lack of a contract means he is trying to have an out from the University. Gillispie’s current Memorandum of Understanding arguably already provides the University with a buyout clause in case of his departure. Whenever that final contract is signed, it surely will contain the EXACT SAME buyout clause currently in place. The parties are acting through their course of performance with the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding in place. It would not be a difficult argument for the University to say that includes the buyout clause. So the notion that Gillispie would have nothing to lose if he just walked away is simply incorrect.

Gillispie and UK are becoming a solid marriage. Both on and off the court, Coach is settling in and the results continue to get more promising by the day. Fans are starting to see the personality of a man that they are growing to love and his relationship with everyone ranging from the UK staff to its alumni to the media continues to improve. If that continues to happen, as most now expect it will, the chance of Gillispie having a long career in Lexington will continue to increase exponentially.

Finally, if you havent seen this yet, check out this video of Billy Gillispie at the DanceBlue Cancer Fundraiser. A truly great moment:

Article written by Matt Jones