With schools across the country facing dire financial situations due to the pandemic, the powers that be in college basketball are determined to find a way to save the season, specifically the NCAA Tournament. Today, John Calipari said he is confident the season will happen, but worries about the impact certain scenarios — such as conference-only schedules — will have on schools outside the Power 5, and what could happen to sports other than football and basketball should the tournament go by the wayside.
“I have a big concern. My big concern is, because I’ve coached there, is that schools need the guarantee money,” Cal said, specifically mentioning Detroit Mercy, which his son Brad transferred to last year and Kentucky is scheduled to play Nov. 13 at Rupp Arena.
“They play seven or eight buy games, which means those seven or games, they’re paid to play those games that help their program. If you take a half a million dollars or more away from Detroit — I can tell you 80-90 schools, you take that money away from those programs, they’re going to be on their back. So, how do we include them on this and not forget, okay, we’re only worried about the Power 5. I coached at these other places. I know what they’re doing, and we’ve talked about it. Do we guarantee contracts going forward? Do we do something in a bubble and try to give them a percent? We don’t have those solutions yet.”
As for the SEC, Calipari mentioned a few of the scenarios being floated around the league, including bubbles on different campuses.
“I trust our league, that they’ll come up with stuff. How many games we’re going to play, don’t know yet. Do we play on long weekends, coming together some place? Do you play on different on-campus sites, where if there are two on-campus sites, one is at Kentucky, one is at Tennessee, we go to Tennessee and Tennessee comes to our court so there’s no home court advantage.”
“The NBA and WNBA have given us a path that we can do it safely. Not going to be exactly the same. It’s not going to be for two or three months but how do we do this and make sure everyone is safe and include all the programs? If 70 programs say we’re out of business, no more basketball, do you know how many scholarships that is for young people in the country like my son, to go to a lower school? What does it do to some of the leagues? What does it do to HBCUs?”
Similarly, Cal expressed concerns for Olympic sports like track and field, swimming, volleyball, gymnastics, and wrestling should the NCAA Tournament not be played and schools miss out on the revenue.
“I just saw today a school cut five sports. I want you all to hear this: we have to have this tournament if we can do it safely because none of us want any cuts on our campus for sports. We don’t want want to see any sport at the University of Kentucky, we’re not having the sport anymore because we can’t do this and we can’t do that. Playing that tournament, doing anything we can to save all the programs…We’ve got to try to figure out a way to do it safely even if it’s smaller, however we decide.”