Calipari: It’s time to put guardrails on NIL, transfer portal

Published 3:34 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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The college basketball landscape has changed over the past five years, largely because of name, image, likeness, and the transfer portal.

Kentucky has been a big benefactor of both changes, especially recruiting veteran players. The Wildcats landed former All-American forward and 2021-22 College Basketball Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe in the portal, as well as current guard Antonio Reeves.

The NIL, which allows college student-athletes to earn money from their namesake, isn’t regulated across the board, with various rules and regulations across the 50 states. Kentucky coach John Calipari would like to see that change moving forward.

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“We need guardrails and all that stuff,” Calipari said. “I think young people, they deserved to share in what’s happening. They deserve their name on the back of their jersey, their signature, their autograph. They deserve that.

“It’s kind of gone beyond that now, and it’s different. The one thing I’m happy about, some of our players coming in, they already had deals before they got to our campus, for trading cards, shoe deals, all this. There’s not as much pressure for us to have to do X, Y, Z.”

On the recruiting trail, Calipari doesn’t sell NIL to his recruits, and added name, image and likeness takes care of itself at Kentucky.

“If it’s about NIL more than basketball, you shouldn’t come here,” he said. “The big picture of where you’re trying to take yourself (in basketball). Basketball should be the overriding factor; even though you’ll do better here (with NIL) than any other place you can go, it’s not why you come to Kentucky.”

Calipari said he would be in favor of making it a rule that every program acknowledges its NIL figures.

“My suggestion has been just let’s make it transparent so every school’s got to say what their kids are doing, not by name, because of HIPAA rules, but by number, whatever you want to do collectively, here is what we’re doing,” he said. “Now we all know the truth about what’s going on. If you don’t do it, coach has got to sit out a year. In other words, if you’re hiding stuff, trying to do other stuff, you got to sit out.”

The Kentucky coach also offered a suggestion on the transfer portal, which has been generous to Calipari during the past two years.

“We don’t want to have 28-year-olds playing against 18-year-olds,” he said. “I’m basically telling you what they do in high school. You get so many semesters and you’re done. You can’t have a 15-year-old playing against a 21-year-old. It’s the same thing, what I think we should do.”

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said the portal offers a different perspective for coaches and their staff members.

“I think now when you recruit young guys, I think you almost have to look at it through a two-year window,” he said. “If they’re not playing for you by their sophomore year, they’re probably thinking about maybe I should go somewhere else.”