Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari said during a press conference on Thursday that he’d like to see the the NCAA system tweaked so that it pays for student-athletes’ insurance.
“I think we have to move to paying for their insurance,” he said. “These kids [currently] have to pay their own disability insurance. It encourages them to leave early. Would you want a $100,000 debt to pay back? We should pay that.”
Calipari, who made the comment during a press conference with Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, added that he believes the NCAA should set up a system in which NBA-caliber student-athletes don’t have to fear that their future earnings could be jeopardized by staying in college.
“If a kid stays more than one year, maybe the NBA or someone else should pay for the loss of value," Calipari said. "If you decide to stay longer, we'll insure you if you choose to stay in school if that's what they want to do so they're not forced.”
The NCAA currently provides student-athletes with catastrophic-injury insurance coverage, a spokeswoman told The Huffington Post last month. But in a 2013 court filing, the association said it “denies that it has a legal duty to protect student-athletes," arguing that is the responsibility of individual schools.
In February, a poll conducted by YouGov for HuffPost found that 74 percent of those surveyed said they believe that NCAA schools should pay for student athletes’ medical expenses resulting from injuries suffered during games. Only 12 percent said they opposed that idea, and 14 percent said they were unsure.
The NCAA and some of its member institutions have expanded their athletic scholarship programs over the last year to include additional benefits, including some transportation costs and the possibility of unlimited meals for athletes.
Calipari, who spoke to the media as part of the lead up to Kentucky’s Final Four game against Wisconsin on Saturday, celebrated the recent improvements.
“We now can feed our kids,” he said. Adding later, “I think the NCAA is moving in the right direction they need to move.”
Here is Calipari’s comment in its entirety, via ASAP text (emphasis ours):
Q: This year's tournament is worth somewhere around $700 million for the NCAA. By making the Final Four, you guys have earned $8 million or $9 million for your conferences to cover costs, salaries. Should any of that money do you think go directly to your players?
A: Well, I think it's taken the NCAA 30 to 40 years, but they're beginning to change now. I mean, right now we brought parents to the Final Four for the first time. My opinion, which I don't give very often, I keep my opinions to myself, but in this case I'll tell you. My opinion is the parents should come to every round. Why should the parents only come to the final round? What about the other 64 teams that played in this, why wouldn't their parents enjoy being with them? We changed the food policy. We now can feed our kids. We're not going to try to make them fat. You won't believe this, we're not going to try to feed them too much, but we're going to feed them and we'll make it as healthy as we can because that's what we're doing. I think what we're doing with the stipends, I think we have to move to paying for their insurance. These kids [currently] have to pay their own disability insurance. It encourages them to leave early. Would you want a $100,000 debt to pay back. We should pay that. If a kid stays more than one year, maybe the NBA or someone else should pay for the loss of value. If you decide to stay longer, we'll insure you if you choose to stay in school if that's what they want to do so they're not forced. I think the NCAA is moving in the right direction they need to move. It's a slow-moving boat. But for 40 years, This is the way it is, we're not changing. Now they've been forced to move in the direction of these young people. I think they've done a pretty good job here over the last year.