By LARRY VAUGHT
As I was listening last week to Kentucky coach John Calipari explain his role in the new minority leadership initiative to help minorities have a chance to become more involved in college athletics administration I wondered if he had ever thought about doing something like this earlier in his career.
In typical Calipari fashion, he gave a blunt, honest answer to what I asked.
“Let me give you a couple things, Larry, that I always wondered. If I was a coach in the 60s, would I have the courage to do the stuff I do now or that I did in the 90s when I was at UMass or Memphis or here?” Calipari said.
“If that was 65, could I do it? Could I do what C.M. Newton did it at Alabama? At Alabama! Would I have the courage to do what’s right even though it’s not popular? I don’t know.”
Calipari admitted he wonders why coaches like him and others didn’t decide to help contribute funds 10 years ago to make these opportunities available for minorities looking to get into college athletics administration.
“Did it take George Floyd to come to us and say, all right, how bad is this?’ And then you look and you do some soul searching and say, this is not good. This is bad,” Calipari said.
The UK coach knows college athletics is not the only field/business that needs to provide more opportunities for minorities.
“The question is, why would we do it in athletics? Because it’s our sphere of influence. For us as coaches, our own staff, and you all that know me know my staff, and if you’ve known me for 20 years, my staff from – and I’m not just talking my assistant coaches – weight strength, trainers, videos, basketball ops, my personal secretary, you look, we have diversity. We’ve done that,” Calipari said.
“But your next move is, OK, we have influence over the athletic department, especially if we coaches are funding the positions. Then would you truly have some influence. And now it becomes athletic departments looking at this saying, you know what, we need to do this.”
Calipari hopes there will be 50 to 60 college coaches making donations to fund 50-75 internships. He also said there was no better time than now even though some wondered with COVID-19 and the racial protests if the timing was right.
“Well, here’s my answer: Two pieces. One, the momentum right now we have, the wind is that our back. Winds change. At the beginning of next year, we may not have the momentum. I may not be able to gather the coaches, Tommy (Amaker) and I together to say let’s do this. That’s one thing,” Calipari said.
“The second thing is, I mean, we want to show the ADs that this means something to us coaches. We know what’s going on, on campuses, but even that it’s going to create opportunities and jobs and things like that.”
If the interns have to work remotely for a while like other administrators are doing, so what.
“We want to make sure we’re really doing what we can for these young people so when they leave, Kentucky they say, ‘The best experience I’ve ever had in my life. The greatest preparation for what I want to do.’ And that may be in business; may not just be in in athletics,” Calipari said.