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Calipari: NCAA crumbling like Soviet Union

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Apr 10 2014 02:42:00 PM CDT
Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari

Andres Stapff/Reuters

Kentucky coach John Calipari writes in his new book that he compares the NCAA to the dying Soviet Union and the future of college sports' governing body is bleak unless it embraces radical reform, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

"The situation reminds me a little of the Soviet Union in its last years. It was still powerful. It could still hurt you. But you could see it crumbling, and it was just a matter of time before it either changed or ceased to exist," Calipari writes in the book.

Calipari's book, "Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out" (Penguin Press) will be published on April 15.

Calipari, whose Kentucky team lost to Connecticut in the national championship game Monday night, is the latest prominent figure to join other critics who argue that the NCAA takes unfair advantage of athletes.

The NCAA is currently facing a possible trial in June in a case regarding athlete compensation. Earlier this month, a National Labor Relations Board ruling designated Northwestern's scholarship football players as employees and awarded them the right to unionize.

Calipari writes in his book that he has numerous ideas as to how to reform the college experience from the athlete's standpoint, but that his suggestions have fallen on deaf ears from the NCAA.

"I think we could have gotten somewhere with me as the point man, but the NCAA was not interested in my help," Calipari writes. "The message I got, between the lines, was, 'No, not you. Not Calipari. We don't want him involved.'"

The Wall Street Journal reported that Calipari presents a 13-point plan for NCAA reform. Among them:

--Players should receive stipends of $3,000 to $5,000.

--The NCAA should cover eligible players' insurance premiums.

--Athletes should be able to accept loans up to $50,000 against future earnings.

--If a coach leaves an institution, players should be able to transfer from that program without having to sit out a season.

--Athletes should be allowed one round-trip flight home every year.

"I believe the tide is turning. The NCAA will soon have to reform itself or it will not remain the dominant force in college athletics," Calipari writes in the book.

Calipari writes that he wants the NCAA to relinquish some of its power -- to conferences, to schools and/or to a new entity that has the power to subpoena. He uses players' meal allotments as an example that the NCAA has too many things to oversee.

"Is the NCAA afraid we're going to make them fat? Give them too much ice cream and chocolate cake?" he writes. "The whole thing really defies sanity."

The NCAA still has a place in college athletics, Calipari writes, as long as it changes with the times.

"I don't endorse all of what the NCAA critics say," he writes. "But I don't think the organization -- and the institution of college sports -- would be under such attack if we made some of the common-sense changes that I, and many others, are recommending."

In a news conference Sunday, NCAA president Mark Emmert said he agreed his organization needed to change and said he was encouraged by some recent initiatives meant to increase athlete rights and include them in the NCAA's legislative process.

"There are things that need to get fixed," said Emmert, who also shot down many of the most radical ideas, including players forming unions.

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