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Calipari’s NCAA Basketball Title Bonus Tops VCU Coach’s Pay

John Calipari, coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team, will earn a bonus larger than the annual base salary of Virginia Commonwealth University coach Shaka Smart with the Wildcats’ eighth national title.

Calipari will receive a $375,000 bonus if Kentucky wins the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, as compared with Smart’s $325,000 base annual salary. The Rams play Butler University in the first semifinal in Houston tomorrow, followed by the game between the University of Connecticut and Kentucky.

“John is the caretaker and CEO of one of the greatest traditions in all of college basketball,” Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said in a telephone interview. “It is an enormous responsibility.”

Jim Calhoun will earn an $87,499 bonus if the Huskies win its third national title, and Smart would get an additional two months’ salary, roughly $54,000 dollars, if the Rams advance to their first-ever NCAA final, according to contracts obtained through open-records requests. Private schools aren’t required to release financial information, and Butler spokesman James McGrath declined in an e-mail to discuss any details of coach Brad Stevens’s contract.

VCU spokesman Scott Day and UConn spokesman Mike Enright didn’t respond to voicemails seeking comment.

Kentucky paid $5.76 million in salary last year to the 52-year-old Calipari and his staff, the most of all 53 public schools in the six biggest conferences -- the Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Pac-10.

Motivational Tools

Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, said large performance-contingent bonuses isn’t what motivates coaches.

“They know that keeping their jobs depends on success and that the next contract they get will be a richer contract if they go to the Final Four,” Zimbalist said in a telephone interview.

The Wildcats are playing in their first NCAA semifinals since 1998, when coach Tubby Smith led the team to its seventh national championship. Kentucky, which spent more on recruiting last year than any other public school in a major conference, has the most wins (2,052) and NCAA tournament appearances (51) in Division I history.

Calipari is 64-11 with two SEC Tournament championships in his two seasons at the school. According to his contract, he has earned $4.13 million so far this season -- of which $325,000 is from performance-related bonuses -- and could receive an additional $375,000 bonus if the Wildcats win.

“John has been a tremendous promoter of our program in terms of visibility, and how that impacts everything we do from recruiting to on-floor competitiveness,” said Barnhart, 51.

Five-Year Extension

Last year Calhoun signed a five-year extension that pays him $350,000 in base salary and $1.95 million this year in consulting and media fees. Calhoun has already earned a $58,333 bonus for taking the Huskies to the Final Four. Should UConn win its third national championship on April 4, Calhoun would earn an additional $29,167.

Now in his 25th year as coach, the 68-year-old Calhoun has taken his teams to four NCAA semifinals and won two national titles in 1999 and 2004.

Smart, 33, signed a six-year contract at VCU last June with an annual base salary of $325,000. He earned a bonus of one and a half month’s salary, roughly $41,000, for securing a bid to the NCAA tournament. Smart has already secured roughly $163,000 in bonuses for taking the Rams to their first Final Four, and stands to earn an additional $54,000 if the Rams win their sixth tournament game against Butler.

The Rams finished their regular season with four losses in their final five games and received an at-large entry into the NCAAA tournament.

Academic Bonuses

Smart and Calipari have academic-performance bonuses built into their contracts; Calhoun does not, although he would lose other bonuses if his team fails to meet NCAA minimum academic requirements. Smart gets a $4,000 bonus for every player that graduates on time; Calipari would receive a $50,000 bonus if the Wildcats maintain a graduation rate of 75 percent or better.

Zimbalist said that instead of paying coaches large rewards for reaching the postseason, the money might be better spent to increase the incentives for higher graduation rates or team grade point averages.

“The reason they don’t do that is because everybody knows what the coaches are hired for,” Zimbalist said. “That is to win.”

-- With assistance from Michelle Steele in New York. Editors: Michael Sillup, Jay Beberman

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