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Calipari proposes 'super conferences' to solve current issues

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John Calipari is full of ideas, some more off-the-wall than others.

Speaking to Matt Jones on Kentucky Sports Radio on Wednesday, Calipari may have formed his most off-the-wall idea yet. It also may have been one of his most intriguing.

Asked about his opinion on paying student-athletes, Calipari's response eventually ended up in a  suggestion to create four new 'super conferences' that, presumably, would be separate of the NCAA.

Those four super conferences, as Caliapri explained it, would consist of 16 to 18 teams (depending on the final number of schools that would split). The conferences would be separated geographically: west (traditional Pac-10, Big 12 teams), north (Big Ten, Big East), east (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East) and south (Southeastern Conference, Big 12).

In football, Calipari suggested that the teams would have a playoff or championship in their league, with the four winners advancing to the semifinals of the football championship. All the other teams would continue to play in the traditional bowls, meaning no current revenue would be lost.

In basketball, Calipari said all 64 or 72 teams make the NCAA Tournament.

The four new super conferences was a bold suggestion given the context of the original question. The whole idea came up when Calipari was asked to clarify a Tuesday report that he would be comfortable with players making money, an extremely hot topic in today's modern world of college sports.

"In the old days, they got laundry money, expense money, movie money," Calipari said. "Well, why weren't they professionals back then? They did all that. Kentucky, one guy was responsible for laundry money. That's how they did it back then. It changed. Now, if you give the kid a Coke, he's now an NBA player. Come on stop."

(Student-athletes' scholarships currently cover partial living expenses for room and board.)

As Calipari explained to Jones, he was specifically asked Tuesday as to how schools would be able to pay student-athletes. Calipari said there are complications of doing it for every program in the NCAA, some of which are financially strapped. Those complications include covering living expenses for every sport, regardless of gender.

"Are you going to give the football and basketball players that cost of living and not your track or baseball?" Calipari said.

Calipari said the decision for schools would be whether or not to add a million or more dollars to their budget to provide the living expense. Calipari believes the vote would be something like 64 in favor to 300 against, the 64 or so of which are the traditional BCS programs with larger budgets.

That's where Calipari's idea of the super conferences came into play.

The way Calipari sees it, if everyone still wants to move forward with paying student-athletes, those 64 to 72 schools that vote for it could split off into a separate league.

Because those schools would generate so much money, they would have enough revenue to pay the student-athletes.

"All that television, all that revenue goes back to the schools," Calipari said. "You probably have $10 million that would go directly to the schools, to their academics and not have anything to do with athletics. You'd be able to give that living expense to all your athletes. You'd probably be to get your Title IX in order. ...

"And, lastly, you would be able to give money back to, let's say, on campus for intramurals. Each school would have the best intramural program for the kids on your campus so that they can do athletic things and stay in shape and those sort of things. All that money would go back to those schools and not be divided and paid for this and that." 

Compliance wise, Calipari suggested having each league audit each other. If the leagues couldn't resolve an issue, a separate body or organization with subpoena power could be created.

"It's separate from the organization that's doing these tournaments," Calipari said.

Of course, what happens to schools like Butler and VCU, which made runs to this year's NCAA Tournament, if these super conferences are created? As Jones pointed out on his radio show, not giving those smaller schools a chance at the championship would be unfair, especially considering they've proven they can compete.

Calipari admitted he didn't have an answer to that one.

"I'm just a basketball coach with a whistle around my neck," Calipari said. "I can't think of another way to try to do what people are doing other than that. Maybe there is another way, and I would say fine."

Calipari said he was just trying to answer a question to an ever-growing issue in college sports. Right now, there isn't a surplus of money to simply decide to pay student-athletes.

"Do you know how it would be without this (to pay the student-athletes)?" Calipari said. "It would be a quarter of a billion dollars. Where would we get it? Should we ask the federal government for it? How about we tax? What are you talking about? This is a quarter of a billion. This isn't a little bit of money, so you would have to do something drastic or it will not be voted on in the way we are right now in this organization."

Calipari made sure to point out that it was an idea solely on solving an issue.

"This has nothing to do with any organization or anything else," Calipari said. "They asked me specifically a question, and you know when you ask me a question, I'm going to give you my answer. ... The issues we're having right now with the way we are, people are complaining and yelling. Well, then here's another way."

Albeit a little off the wall.

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