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John Calipari made $7.45 million from the University of Kentucky for the 2017-18 basketball season — more than any other public-school coach in the country.
He also had more than $1.3 million in athletically related outside income, thanks in large part to a previously-unreported seven-figure payment from the producers of an all-access docu-series about the team.
According to a copy of Calipari’s most recently available outside-income report, which USA TODAY Sports obtained this winter as part of its annual survey of men’s college basketball coaches’ compensation, the Kentucky coach received $1 million from the producers of “Inside the Madness: Kentucky Basketball” last year — money that Calipari says has been earmarked for donations to others.
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In a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports through the athletic department, the Kentucky coach said he informed his players about the money and his intent to put it toward charitable causes before they unanimously voted to appear in the 10-episode series, which aired on Facebook Watch last spring.
“In a perfect world, some of the money we made from the Facebook series would have been distributed to our players,” Calipari said in the statement. “Our rules simply won’t allow it. Instead, I’m proud of how they chose to allow themselves to be part of doing something that would make a difference in the lives of so many other people through charitable donations.”
Calipari said more than $600,000 of the money has been donated to at least eight nonprofit organizations, including the Jimmy V Foundation and the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County. He said an additional $141,000 went toward debt relief for 19 students in Kentucky’s College of Education.
It appears that at least a portion of the money was used to benefit those in Calipari’s orbit. He said in his statement that $100,000 was placed in “an educational fund that will distribute money to relieve college debts of staff, managers and former players who have made a difference in our programs at Massachusetts, Memphis and Kentucky over the years.”
Kentucky spokesperson Jay Blanton told USA TODAY Sports in an email that Calipari’s arrangement was reviewed by the school’s office of general counsel and did not require a review by its ethics committee.
Calipari reported the $1 million as outside income he received between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018. The NCAA’s membership voted in 2016 to stop requiring schools to collect outside income reports from athletics personnel, but Kentucky continued to require them as a compliance measure. (The membership reversed course on outside-income documentation in August, and schools are in the process of re-implementing the reporting.)
Calipari listed the source of the payment as “Kentucky All Access LLC” — which, according to state filings, shares an address and point of contact with the production company behind the series, Crazy Legs Productions. Publicly available records from the Kentucky Office of Film and Development show the entity received just over $440,000 in tax credits from the state in connection with the project under a state incentive program.
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Deputy athletic director DeWayne Peevy told USA TODAY Sports that the producers of the show contacted Calipari through his representation after the school initially declined to commit to participate in a version of the show that was targeted for Showtime. Calipari, Crazy Legs Productions and showrunner Jason Sciavicco, who was an executive producer on the series, are all represented by CAA Sports.
Peevy said Kentucky later signed off on the show in November due to timing and the reach of Facebook.
“We felt like we were getting a lot of stuff about people being disconnected from our team because of the changeover in roster,” Peevy said. “So really we thought it was a vehicle for people to be able to get to know our kids.”
A third-party entity, JMI Sports, holds the local multi-media and marketing rights for Kentucky athletics, and the school was not directly compensated for its participation, according to university officials.
A spokesperson for Crazy Legs Productions declined to comment on any financial arrangements with Calipari in connection with the show, citing the confidential nature of such agreements.
It is relatively common for all-access shows to provide some sort of compensation to their participants. According to documents obtained by The Detroit Free Press, the Michigan football program received $2.25 million for access and licensing tied to its behind-the-scenes show on Amazon in 2017. Navy spokesperson Scott Strasemeier, meanwhile, confirmed that Navy’s athletic department was compensated when its football team was featured by Showtime last year.
Strasemeier and Michigan spokesperson Kurt Svoboda said their coaches were not paid specifically for participating in the shows. Spokespeople for Florida State football and Notre Dame football, which were also featured on Showtime in recent years, did not reply to requests for comment.
Calipari reported an additional $335,000 in outside income during 2017-18, beyond the docu-series payment. He received $115,000 from CAA, $33,000 from Nike and $65,000 for a speaking engagement with the Land O’Lakes dairy company last summer, among other income.
Contributing: Jon Hale of The Louisville Courier-Journal