John Calipari

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — John Calipari is confident future student-athletes at the University of Kentucky will benefit from name, image and likeness laws and legislation.

“Obviously, we have to wait to see exactly what the rules state — but no one should be able to do it better for men’s basketball than our program,” Calipari said.

Seven states have enacted legislation and other measures that will give student-athletes that opportunity to receive compensation from their name, image and likeness, giving player the chance to receive monetary benefits from sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances.

“Player welfare is going to be a big part of it, which includes name, image and likeness,” Calipari said. “It includes branding and other stuff that we have done.”

Calipari said Thursday the NCAA is  "entering into an exciting age in college athletics."

"At the University of Kentucky, we have always put student-athletes first and today’s executive order by Gov. Andy Beshear – who I want to thank for making this a priority – will empower universities across the state to support their young men and women better than ever," he said. "Whether we are talking about name, image and likeness, lifetime scholarships, financial literacy, health and wellness, or player welfare, student-athletes have been at the center of every decision at Kentucky. With today’s announcement, we continue to take positive steps forward in supporting our student-athletes to an even greater degree statewide. They deserve our time, effort and resources in making sure they have the opportunities to benefit from the hard work they put into their athletic and educational careers. As we wait on federal legislation, our program will continue to support, elevate and educate our kids.”

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops agreed.

"Supporting our student-athletes is at the center of Kentucky Athletics and today’s announcement is another step in that direction," Stoops said. "Name, image and likeness issues are at the forefront of college athletics and we appreciate Governor Beshear helping us address current needs while long-term solutions are being developed on the national level. Our established principles of educational excellence, athletic success and personal development have us well-positioned as the NIL process begins.”

Five states within the Southeastern Conference — Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi — will have laws that will allow athletes from receiving compensation from a third party for their name, image and likeness. The NCAA likely will keep laws intact that prevent players from pay-for-play and paying recruits. 

In states that have NIL regulations, student-athletes will not be penalized for making a profit from their name, image and likeness. Schools will likely be required by the NCAA to post a written policy regarding NIL and prohibiting payments from booster club members in exchange for athletic or attendance at a member institution.

“Today’s executive order from the Governor provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). We are appreciative of that support as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted," Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said. "The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago. What won’t change is our core and most important principle – the well-being and development of our student athletes, while they are at UK and, as importantly, in preparing them for success in life, on whatever path they choose.

"We are extremely well-positioned to help our student athletes navigate this new and complex terrain. Much of what we need to do to support students in terms of NIL – through The Kentucky Road initiative -- has been in place for some time. We have a strong foundation, which we will now work to build on.”

Calipari added the Wildcats won’t be competing against the NBA and its “G” League on the recruiting trail once laws and legislation are enacted.

“I don’t really think we’re competing,” the Kentucky coach said. “If a kid has an interest in that, he’s not coming to Kentucky. That’s just my opinion. If they look at this and see the overall picture, we call it the Kentucky Effect.”

Calipari said Kentucky’s main draw will continue to be national exposure.

“Two years ago, TV-wise, our ratings before the pandemic would have ranked fourth in the NBA – Golden State, the Lakers, Cleveland with LeBron (James) – would have been above our ratings,” he said. “So, all the social media stuff and all the stuff we do, and we can do, my mind it should be the best in the country.”

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