John Calipari buyout: How much would Kentucky have to pay to fire HC?

Would Kentucky fire head coach John Calipari if they fail to make a deep run in this year's NCAA Tournament? If so, what would it cost them?

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals
SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

After signing a lifetime contract in 2019 to be the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, the tune surrounding John Calipari has changed.

A golden standard for college basketball, Kentucky’s Division I men’s program is accustomed to excellence with a rich history of winning championships and competing at the highest level. But that hasn’t happened in recent years under Calipari’s watch. 

The Wildcats haven’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2016, and the last time they played in the Final Four was in 2015. They will be entering the 2024 NCAA Tournament without an SEC regular season title or conference tournament championship – for a fourth consecutive time.

With Big Blue Nation growing more impatient and frustrated by the day, could Calipari and Kentucky part ways if the program falls short yet again in this year’s March Madness despite their eternal pact? What would it cost to fire the longtime head coach?

John Calipari buyout: How much would it cost Kentucky to fire HC?

Calipari makes roughly $9 million annually and has an opt-out clause in his contract that allows him to back out of the deal and move on to serve as a special assistant to the Athletic Director after this season. Kentucky would still be on the hook for his $400,000 yearly base salary plus an additional $550,000 in supplemental money for the duration of his contract.

Alternatively, there are other options for the two sides if they’re ready for a breakup: Calipari can walk away on his own accord, or Kentucky can fire him.

If Calipari decides to step down in pursuit of another head coaching gig, it wouldn’t cost Kentucky anything. But if they want to relieve him of his duties, the university still owes him 75 percent of the “remaining compensation” on his deal, per his contract

In other words, if Kentucky fires Calipari following the 2023-24 season, they will be liable to pay him a whopping $33,375,000, a steep price to move on from one of the most renowned coaches in college basketball. 

Next. 2024 NBA Draft: Ranking Kentucky's draft prospects entering March Madness. 2024 NBA Draft: Ranking Kentucky's draft prospects entering March Madness. dark