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John Calipari compares NCAA to former Soviet Union in new book

Apr 10, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT

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In recent years the NCAA has come under fire for the way in which collegiate athletics have been governed, with the escalation of television rights and coaching salaries leading to more questions in regards to whether or not student-athletes deserve a greater say in the way things are run. There’s also the issue of scholarships, and if what the participants currently receive is enough or should more be added to those athletic grants-in-aid.

One person who believes more should be done for the athletes is Kentucky head coach John Calipari, who touched on the issue in his book “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out.” The book is due to be released April 15, and also of note is Calipari’s characterization of the NCAA according to Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal.

“The situation reminds me a little of the Soviet Union in its last years,” Calipari writes in a forthcoming book. “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 makes a good point here, and it’s been acknowledged in recent months that changes need to be made. The five most “powerful” conferences, which happen to be the most influential in the sport that reels in the most money (college football), have taken steps towards being able to decide how they’ll handle certain issues without having to worry about smaller leagues shutting down their proposals.

One such proposal is meeting the full cost of attendance for scholarship athletes, a measure that met significant resistance when first suggested. Both NCAA president Mark Emmert and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby alluded to the fact that changes needed to be made during their press conference at the Final Four on Sunday, but saying such things and actually doing them are two entirely different matters.

The additional scholarship money is something Calipari favors, as he’s suggested in the book that a stipend of $3,000 to $5,000 would help athletes meet the full cost of attendance. And it should be noted that meeting the full cost of attendance and flat-out paying athletes are two entirely different things. That tends to get lost in some of the discussions regarding this particular measure.

With Northwestern football players taking the first step towards introducing unions to collegiate athletics, it’s even more apparent that the powers that be in collegiate athletics need to make adjustments. Because the strategy of simply winning the court of public opinion isn’t going to work anymore.

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