John Calipari of the University of Kentucky has the best odds to win the men’s college basketball championship among the coaches at this weekend’s Final Four. He also has the most incentive, at least financially.
Calipari, 53, would get a $350,000 bonus if his top-seeded Wildcats, with a starting lineup of three freshmen and two sophomores, win the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. Kentucky faces the University of Louisville in tomorrow’s first national semifinal in New Orleans, followed by the University of Kansas against Ohio State University.
All of the Final Four coaches -- Calipari, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Kansas’s Bill Self and Ohio State’s Thad Matta -- have reached the championship game before, with Pitino and Self having won titles. Collectively, the coaches have bonuses in their contracts of $800,000 for winning the NCAA title.
“It’s par for the course,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. “Not only that, usually their contracts enable them to go out and sign endorsement deals separate from that. If they’re in the Final Four, the deals are richer and the amount they get from motivational speaking is greater, so the actual return they get is much greater than that bonus.”
The coaches’ contracts and salary data were obtained by Bloomberg News using open-records laws.
Calipari has taken three schools to the Final Four without winning a championship. The Wildcats are 5-7 favorites to win the title on April 2, odds that break down to a 52 percent chance of Calipari helping cut down the Superdome nets in celebration. At those odds, a winning $7 wager would return $5 plus the original stake.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have listed Kentucky as an 8 1/2-point favorite against Louisville tomorrow, the biggest point spread at the Final Four since 1999, when Duke was an 11-point pick against Michigan State before winning 68-62. The Wildcats beat Pitino’s Cardinals 69-62 less than three months ago.
Pitino, 59, who won a national title at Kentucky in 1996 and took over at Louisville in 2001, would receive a $150,000 bonus if the Cardinals earn this year’s championship, according to his contract. Self, 49, who coached the Jayhawks to the title in 2008, has a $200,000 championship bonus in his contract, while the 44-year-old Matta would get $100,000 if Ohio State wins the final game.
“The actual contribution that the coach makes is quite questionable and uncertain, I think, but their payoff is enormous,” Zimbalist said in a telephone interview.
The Final Four coaches already have triggered performance incentives totaling $815,000 over the last month.
$3.8 Million Salary
Calipari, who receives $3.8 million from Kentucky annually in base salary and broadcasting and endorsement payments, added a $50,000 bonus for winning the Southeastern Conference regular-season title. He then received $100,000 for reaching the final 16 of the NCAA tournament, another $100,000 for making the regional final and $150,000 for the Wildcats’ second straight Final Four trip.
“I’m just worried about us playing at our best,” Calipari said at a news conference. “If that’s not good enough, it’s been a heck of a season.”
Matta has a $2.09 million salary this season and collected $60,000 in bonuses for winning the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles, plus $40,000 for Ohio State’s NCAA tournament appearance. He also got $20,000 for making the regional final and $20,000 for reaching the national semifinals.
Self, who has a $3 million salary including vested deferred payments, pocketed $50,000 for leading the Jayhawks to the Big 12 regular-season title and $100,000 for reaching the Final Four.
Pitino, whose annual salary also is $3 million, got $50,000 for winning the Big East tournament and another $100,000 combined when Louisville advanced to the regional semifinals and final.
Pitino said he’s more concerned about how his team can get past Kentucky in the first Final Four showdown between schools from the same state since 1962.
“The way I look at Kentucky and the way I look at their coaching staff, I marvel at excellence,” Pitino said. “There will be people at Kentucky that will have a nervous breakdown if they lose to us.”