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April 01, 2009

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This is more or less the same thing that happened with Nick Saban in Alabama for football. I expect similar results with the Cats. Which makes me bitter, because winning 6 of 8 including 4 straight in Nashville has been a lot of fun... =)

All of these criticisms, however, fail to grasp that basketball in Kentucky is different. People there are extremely passionate about it – passionate in ways it’s difficult to grasp from the outside (I was raised there). It’s actually a fascinating sociological phenomenon – the deep roots that basketball plays in the culture of the state. And today, I want to take a stab at explaining – and defending – that passion and that culture.

Hi. I'm from Indiana.* We should form a 12 step group.

*Mostly. I will, however, falsely claim to be from Providence, RI, until the end of my days. (Frak this basketball stuff .... Go P-Bruins!)

jon - those days are over buddy. :)

But the 40 point whoopin' last year should give you lasting pleasure for years

Cawood Ledford must have something to do with it too.

Happy April Fool's Day!

Are you at all troubled by the reputation that Calipari brings with him?

As a Penn Stater, we had similar sociological issues during "the dark years" (2000-2004). Two Big Ten Titles, an Orange Bowl win, a Rose Bowl appearance and 3-1 in bowl games since then tends to cure all woes.

I think the hire is great for Kentucky from a basketball perspective. But Calipari troubles me. As excellent a coach as he is, he takes some borderline academic qualifiers and some kids with questionable behavior issues. His graduation rate is not exactly a selling point.

The former Aggie coach was a terrible fit at Kentucky based on his whole attitude toward, you know, actually representing the university. Calipari will win, and he will win big. You can't combine a great coach and a traditionally storied program and not expect great results. But the marquee still says college basketball. I hope Kentucky can do that as well.

Obviously, many of you don’t care about college basketball. You may think it’s silly, or that it’s absurd to pay a coach that much money in a recession.

Or that big-time college basketball exploits the (largely African-American) players, giving them no share in the huge amount of money they generate for their school. All they receive in return is a scholarship, and many schools don't even help them to take advantage of that. Does Kentucky really graduate only 8 percent of its basketall players?

Um, the education rate and the flagship state university basketball team is currently better in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, the economic crisis has imposed budget cuts on U Kentucky that has resulted in a hiring freeze and the elimination of 188 faculty positions.

Nice priorities.

You may think it’s silly, or that it’s absurd to pay a coach that much money in a recession.

After all the b*tching and moaning around here over CEO pay/bonuses I’m certainly going to take this as an April Fools joke.

And exactly why should the rest of us homogenous US citizens sign up to the notion that basketball is or should be allowed to be any different in Kentucky than in the rest of our great nation?

Coming from Nebraska, where a similar dynamic plays out with NU football, I agree with most of what you say.

OCSteve: I certainly hope that it is, although 5 posts of .... MY STATE is like that too, gives the feeling that every joke is grounded in reality. This one is heavily grounded.

And I think that's a major problem in this country. God forbid the general public ever had this attitude about science, or literature or a humanitarian cause. Nope, our greatest social bonding occurs when you throw a ball through a hoop.

And people try to say we're NOT descended from monkeys. I think it's pretty obvious sometimes.

Jon - Vandy fans like us probably shouldn't hope for too many bb wins against Kentucky, at least not in Rupp. But the way things are trending, we may begin to beat them in football consistently. These are strange, strange days...

byrning - But isn't this like autoworkers v. Wall Street. As a recall, you argued a while back that the autoworkers are orders of magnitude less consequential to the country's economy than bankers. Isn't that the same here?

i mean, as an academic myself, it hink that sucks. but realistically, how do you think these facilities get paid for? the program KEEPS a lot of faculty hired too. sure, more could be allocated, but it's not chump change.

You have to understand that basketball serves an important social function in the state – it’s the state’s secular religion.

Sounds like high school football in Texas.

When I was a kid in Western Kentucky, my parents took part in a hoax joke on one of their best friends, a fellow Wildcats fan, by mailing him a package from Joe B. Hall declaring him U.K.'s fan of the year. He took it hook, line and sinker -- way more than anyone I think suspected he would -- and once the prank was revealed it left some hard feelings.

The Wildcats are serious business. And since my maternal family was from Indiana, I also grew up with all kinds of Bobby Knight nuttiness. I was actually glad to leave basketball behind when I moved out of the state for college.

So publius managed to write a long post about the culture of basketball in Kentucky and never once use the word "Louisville."

There's a UK fan.

Anyway, let me join jon and Allen in a hearty, "Go 'Dores," surely one of the dorkier cheers around.

i mean, as an academic myself, it hink that sucks. but realistically, how do you think these facilities get paid for? the program KEEPS a lot of faculty hired too. sure, more could be allocated, but it's not chump change.

Do sports programs really help fund academics? I'm pretty skeptical of that, can someone show that to be the case?

Hmmm, stories like this indicate that college sports are generally loss-making, financially.

Do sports programs really help fund academics?

Suppose it depends on the school. But when I talk to fundraisers at other colleges, athletic boosters are generally a skew set vis a vis the usual donors. There are a few that overlap, but most don't/

Hmm...let's see. The federal government provides over 10% of UK's revenue, that means the Obama Junta will nationalize the University to further the socialist revolution. Prominent Dems have called for wage controls. That means Calipari should be taxed at 99% on every dolar after the first $50,000.

It makes me sad that we have to politicize this post or make snide comments about college sports traditions when someone brings up the topic of coaching salaries.

For the record, I think the salaries of most coaches at the big money sports at major D-I universities border on totally outlandish and ridiculous. But they aren't asking for federal money, so in the grand scheme of things, there's nothing to really politicize here. For instance, the revenue drawn from Penn State's football program alone pays for the entirety of the athletic department - all the major olympic sports. Sports are a useful tool in education about both teamwork and self-reliance, hard work, dedication, and perserverance. They also add to the social aspect of campus and the local community. If Calipari (or Paterno, or Bo Pelini or whoever) can get his program to do that and to graduate players, there's no beef from me.

It's not just "putting a ball through a hoop." Basketball matters in Kentucky and football matters in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Texas the same way that soccer matters to major European and South American nations. It really does bring people together in many different ways. Don't snark it.

That's a lot of money to pay for a manager of one of the NBA's AAA farm teams.

I've been skimming through academic articles on college sports, I'm not finding very compelling evidence that they make financial sense.

My brief, wholly inadequate research suggests:

1) the large majority of sports programs are net losses
2) notably successful programs do seem to benefit from increased undergrad application numbers and donations
3) these donations tend to go specifically toward the sports programs, however, and higher academic performance seems to have a stronger impact on application numbers and fund-raising than sports excellence.

On the whole, IMHO, the intangibles of sports programs certainly make them worthwhile. The amount of money that goes into pseudo-pro programs (in terms of facilities, salaries etc) is highly dubious though, and at a time when the rest of the university budget is being squeezed and academia taking a hit, seems like plain old madness to through money at some basketball coach for a possible marginal increase in performance in the near-medium term.

The amount of money this guy is getting paid, on the other hand, could fund several superstar endowed professors (let alone many more asst profs and those in the front lines of teaching) which would bring in far more noticeable results in terms of applicants, fundraising, and revenue from other sources (ie grants).

In sum, Publius, I hope you're team sucks for the next 4 years.

I acknowledge my last post was riddled with typos.

I forgot to address this point, Pub:
But isn't this like autoworkers v. Wall Street. As a recall, you argued a while back that the autoworkers are orders of magnitude less consequential to the country's economy than bankers. Isn't that the same here?

To me, it seems like the opposite case. Surely the autoworkers are the students? Management and the financial types are the teachers, and clownish overpaid advertising execs who are the first to go in a downturn are the sport programs?

The federal government provides over 10% of UK's revenue, that means the Obama Junta will nationalize the University...

I want someone to start on open thread on origami, or craft ale brewing, or maybe figure skating in Minnesota, to see if dave can find a way to make it about Obama and marginal tax rates.

There's an opportunity for a personal best in there somewhere, the man should not be denied his shot at glory.

Well, publius, too bad they had to settle for second best. Obviously Izzo let it be known that he wasn't going to go to UK.

For instance, the revenue drawn from Penn State's football program alone pays for the entirety of the athletic department - all the major olympic sports.

Adam,

My impression is that Penn State is an exception, and that the programs are money-losers at most schools. Notice too that at state schools the programs receive little-noticed tax subsidies, in that the costs of the scholarships to the athletic programs are reduced by state support.

If Calipari (or Paterno, or Bo Pelini or whoever) can get his program to do that and to graduate players, there's no beef from me.

There's the rub. As Mike Schilling points out, graduation rates for many of the big time programs are abysmal. Universities do athletes no favors by bringing them in to play sports for a few years without actually teaching them very much. A greater emphasis on academic standards would help a lot, both directly and by trickling down to the high schools.


In addition to agreeing with byrningman here, I'd also note that UK ran a very good coach, and a good man, Tubby Smith, out of town. Now, your loss is our gain here at Minnesota, so I'm not complaining too loudly, but you might want to closely examine the priorities down there.

Publius, I grew up in Lexington and followed the Cats passionately on the radio as a child listening to Cawood Ledford, and when I left Kentucky in the fall of 1980 I miss that passion and rootedness to UK ball. Your 'blog entry speaks well to the mysteries of basketball to the Kentuckiana region and to the Wildcat faithfull. You do us all proud today with your piece. I only hope that Coach Calipari does as well and also works to educate young men in the mysteries of the world along with the sublime beauty of the great Goose Givens type jump shot.

Kentuckiana basketball worship is amazing. I recall going to French Lick Springs Resort many years ago, and noticing that the basketball arena attached to the small high school looked capable of holding everyone in town a few times over, if not quite everyone in the county.

adam collyer

//It makes me sad that we have to politicize this post or make snide comments about college sports traditions when someone brings up the topic of coaching salaries.

For the record, I think the salaries of most coaches at the big money sports at major D-I universities border on totally outlandish and ridiculous. But they aren't asking for federal money, so in the grand scheme of things, there's nothing to really politicize here. For instance, the revenue drawn from Penn State's football program alone pays for the entirety of the athletic department - all the major olympic sports. Sports are a useful tool in education about both teamwork and self-reliance, hard work, dedication, and perserverance. They also add to the social aspect of campus and the local community. If Calipari (or Paterno, or Bo Pelini or whoever) can get his program to do that and to graduate players, there's no beef from me.//

The vast majority of AIG executives that got bonuses were from AIG divisions that were profitable and unrelated to the division that ruined the whole company. They in fact contributed to the overall health of AIG. You say the sports programs support the overall university financially and don't ask for federal funds so they are ok. Yet the overall university does receive significant federal and state funding. The vast majority of posters and commenters on this blog did not make the same distinction for AIG execs. I think the double standard is worthy of note.

byrningman,

As far as I can tell, Notre Dame is the only university that could argue that it got better as a university because it had a good sports program.

Michael Neal,

It's really too bad that Louisville played so badly on Sunday, because the Pitino is really a sore subject for Wildcats fans. Any good news for Rick is an annoyance for Wildcat fans. He had the temerity to walk away from UK without being pushed.

If Tubby wins three NCAA championships in a row, the Wildcat fans won't care because it was their decision to get rid of him and they will never see how stupid they were being, but if Pitino wins that can just rub salt into the wounds.

Still, I almost had to feel sorry for UK fans when Morehead State and Western Kentucky got to play along with Louisville and UK sat home.

As a Florida fan I don't relish what I anticipate will be UK's rapid return to preeminence. But UK basketball is really something. I once attended a game at Rupp back in the 90s -- the Cats were playing Canisius (I think) during X-mas break. The 24,000-seat arena was packed for every nanosecond of UK's blowout win, and when the Cats turned the ball over with a 35-point lead late in the second half, there was a rumble of discontent at the sloppy play. Not because they wanted to pour it on; the sloppiness was just unacceptable. I've been to many sports events over the years, and the UK basketball fans were easily the most knowledgeable I've encountered.

byr - i don't disagree with you in terms of financial priorities more generally. I just think it's a mistake to see this as some existing pot of money that's being reallocated away from say science research.

the money simply wouldn't be there -- it's unfortunate but rich alumni don't donate there (or anywhere beyond the ivy-caliber schools) for academic programs. the money just wouldn't be there otherwise

I grew up in Iowa where girl's basketball had a cult status at least in the rural parts of the state which is most of it. Maybe still does. I haven't been back here in decades. Anyway girls' basketball seemed to be the glue that held the small towns together; everybody went to the games, the sports page of the papers covered it, the small towns had big public recognitions of their team (symbols on the water tower, "Home of the _____" signs as you enntered the twon.

I wasn't a small town Iowan or a sports fan so all of this sort of swirled around me without much personal meaning but, looking back, I wonder if it wasn't empowering for small town girls. Usually its the boys who get to be the local sports heros.

I'm old enough to remember the bad old segregationist days when Rupp was the coach. So I'm really enjoying the irony that the two nationally-prominent hoops programs in the state are now led by a couple of northeastern urban Italian guys who made their bones at UMass (my daughter's alma mater) and Boston U (mine).

I think the best comment on basketball players' graduation rates comes from Sonny Smith, former head coach at Auburn. When a reporter asked him how many of his players graduated, he replied, "Every one that wants to."

publius:

As a resident of Memphis, TN, and the spouse of an undergrad and graduate alumnus of the University of Memphis, allow me to extend unto you a hearty middle finger. :) May you be cursed with the U of M's awe-inspiring (and not the good kind) free-throw-shooting skills.

The poster above, who said that these programs aren't asking for federal money, is wrong. Every taxpayer in the US is subsidizing these ridiculous salaries, because college athletics get the same tax breaks that nonprofits--most of which serve an actual public purpose--do. Part of the reason that Kentucky can pay such a high salary is because they don't have to pay federal taxes on income.

I think the double standard is worthy of note.

Dave, the AIG folks didn't get their money because the company blew up. There's a lot of that going around.

UK -- no financial meltdown. Different situation, different story.

As another resident of Memphis, let me second tgirsch's sentiments.

apologies to brock and tgirsch -- but it could get worse depending on what recurits do, which I understand is up in the air at the moment

The only silver lining is that the school's GPA will improve incrementally as a result. :)

Seriously, though, my comically-uninformed take on Calipari is here, if you want to see why I think UK is wasting the taxpayers' err, its money.

It's really too bad that Louisville played so badly on Sunday, because the Pitino is really a sore subject for Wildcats fans. Any good news for Rick is an annoyance for Wildcat fans. He had the temerity to walk away from UK without being pushed.

I dislike Pitino almost as much as I dislike Calipari. Beating Louisville this year was very satisfying, and watching another Big 10 school knock them out of the tournament almost matched it. It would probably mean more if I liked basketball. As far as I'm concerned, the Final Four teams are Boston University, Vermont, Miami, and Bemidji State.

Mmm, Frozen Four...

[/disappointed that Wisconsin isn't there]
[/Congratulates Wisconsin Women's Hockey team on 3rd title in 4 years]

Go UVM!!!!!

The vast majority of AIG executives that got bonuses were from AIG divisions that were profitable and unrelated to the division that ruined the whole company.

So.

The controversy was about bonuses to the financial products division.

Also: If a company cannot stay afloat without hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money injected rather abruptly, they probably aren't in a position to be paying multi-million dollar performance bonuses. The good parts of the company must account for the bad parts, and such is the way free markets work.

Right?

I've lived in Kentucky all 26 years of my life. I became a UK fan at birth. I've don't know what its like to not be a UK fan. I wouldn't have it any other way. UK basketball bonds people together in a way that couldn't be described to someone outside of the state. I would say that 65% of the conversations that I've had with my father over the years have been about UK basketball. People might think that were crazy to be so vested in a college sport. But its so much more than that. Its about family and history. Its about how the victories and defeats of the team has affected your life. I remember exactly what I was feeling and where I was at when michigan called the time out that they didn't have. Or when Laettner(spellings probably wrong) made that last second shot. When we won in '96 and in '98. The last few days I've been watching espn and checking the local blogs hoping to here something about xavier henry and john wall, hoping. There is love in UK basketball, there is hope, and there is sadness. It is like nothing else in the world. Thank you for your blog post, you do the commonwealth proud in its defense. I hope I may have helped to show people what this basketball program is really about.

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