Kentucky's John Calipari is the nation's top-paid college basketball coach, and with good reason. In just his third season with the team, Calipari led the Wildcats to a 38-2 record and a national championship victory. That success followed two seasons of a combined 64-12 record with deep tournament runs to the Elite Eight in 2010 and Final Four in 2011.
Such consistently strong performances are rare, and Calipari was rewarded with a 2011 contract extension that ensures he'll be well paid through the 2018-19 season. The coach rakes in $3.8 million in annual pay (base salary plus income from broadcasting and endorsements), not to mention $1 million retention bonuses paid in the summer of each year he stays, excepting 2015 and 2018.
It's a sweet deal made even sweeter by a bevy of performance bonuses that pays the coach up to $850,000 in additional income each season. Calipari nearly maxed out those bonuses last year, collecting $4.6 million in total school pay, a 21% increase on his base income. But of the $800,000 in bonus money, $700,000 were directly tied to NCAA Tournament play. In other words, deep tournament runs are a great way for Calipari to supplement his annual salary, but missing the tournament entirely will drastically limit the coach's earning potential.
And while a Calipari-led Kentucky is ordinarily a lock for tournament play - Calipari's teams have made deep tournament runs every year since 2006, and the Wildcats have missed the cut just once since 1991 - the prospect of sitting on the outside looking in is far from fantasy. Kentucky is just 20-9, floating on the tournament bubble with only two games left to play.
Calipari can't really be blamed for the down year, of course. Six members of his title-winning squad were drafted in the first two rounds of last year's NBA draft, and that exodus of championship-caliber talent was further worsened when freshman phenom Nerlens Noel went down with an ACL tear earlier this season.
But the reality remains that Kentucky may not even be in the discussion come Selection Sunday if it fails to win its last two games, a significant possibility considering that Saturday's matchup is against 11th-ranked Florida.
While making the tournament doesn't guarantee Calipari much money (he only gets the full $700,000 by winning the whole thing, after all), missing the cut means he'll be saying goodbye to the chance of taking home a rather significant chunk of cash with just a few postseason wins. Making it to the Sweet 16 alone nets him $100,000.
But don't feel too bad for the coach just yet - he only has to wait until July to collect his next $1 million bonus.
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