John Calipari has a new mission. This morning, Calipari announced the McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative (MLI), a coach-driven program aimed at creating access and opportunities for minorities in college athletics administration. The foundation is named for civil rights pioneer John McLendon, the first African American basketball coach at a predominantly white institution and in any professional sport.
Calipari broke the news on ESPN’s “Get Up” this morning alongside Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, telling Mike Greenberg that 50 coaches have joined the initiative so far.
“Seven weeks ago this week we watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. How could one human being do that to another? We started saying, wait, we’ve got to step back. And for some of us, I stood back to learn and listen to see what don’t I understand and find out I may never understand but I stand with all of what we’re trying to do right now. The second thing that happened is, my wife grabbed me and said, ‘John, everything that’s happened for us has happened for us because African American families have trusted us with their son. What are you going to do? What are you going to say? How are you going to get involved?’
“That led to, how do we get coaches together? What can we do to make a difference? And in athletics, it’s add diversity to athletic departments. How do we make those minorities leaders and decision makers in athletics? Lastly, where do we house them because we coaches can’t collectively do this. We can do it on our campus but we find the John McLendon Fund. And then I needed a partner to organize and that partner is Coach Amaker, who has been a great friend and someone I really respect so we came together and right now, we’ve got 50 coaches that have invested in this program.”
Calipari said that in ten years, he hopes the initiative will have changed the landscape of college sports.
“We hope athletic departments look different. We hope athletic directors look different, which means coaches will look different. The coaches in this are here to promote it and be the point of funding. Right now, athletic departments across the country are struggling. We should be the point of funding. It’s to be mentors because we’re not only trying to create access and opportunity for minorities in college athletics, we’re trying to create and develop leaders and decision makers because that’s how change is going to be made.”
The program includes opportunities in Business Operations, Communications, Compliance, Equipment, Facilities, Finance, Donor & Gifting, Game Management, Human Resources, Marketing, Team-Specific Roles, Ticketing, and Video & Content Creation. The foundation will start accepting applications on August 1. For more information, visit MinorityLeaders.org.
Calipari is also seeking matching funds from private donors, corporate supporters, and other partners to support other universities that wish to participate in the program.
“I am pleased that the University of Kentucky Athletics Department has joined me in the initiative, and I hope that other college coaches and schools will join in this great cause,” Calipari said in a press release. “College athletics will be the focus of the MLI, but if the initiative can make a broader impact across all levels of athletics and in other industries to help build a path of opportunity for our minority leaders of tomorrow, I’m all for that.”
Tonight, Calipari will be joined by Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Mark Few (Gonzaga), Bob Huggins (West Virginia), Rick Barnes (Tennessee), Jeff Capel (Pitt), Cuonzo Martin (Missouri), and Frank Martin (South Carolina) to discuss the MLI on the final episode of “Coffee with Cal.” You can watch it live on Facebook at 7 p.m. ET.