Calipari and Barnhart testify before Kentucky General Assembly, support NIL bill


Michael Clubb

University of Kentucky mens basketball head coach John Calipari testifies in front of the Senate Education Committee in favor of Senate bill 6, which passed unanimously on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, at Kentucky State Capitol annex building in Frankfort, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart and mens basketball head coach John Calipari testified in favor of name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation for student athletes in Kentucky on Wednesday. 

According to the Kentucky General Assembly’s website, Senate Bill 6, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee unanimously 10-0, was introduced to:

  • Provide protections for student athletes seeking compensation through NIL agreements or seeking an athlete agent

  • Establish prohibitions, conditions, and limitations on athletes earning compensation through NIL agreements

  • Prohibit NIL compensation as an inducement

  • Prohibit institutions, associations, or affiliated organizations from providing compensation for NIL of a student athlete and other similar activities

“I want to lend my support for a state law that codifies and allows opportunities for student athletics,” Barnhart said. 

Following an executive order signed by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in June 2021, colleges in the state are required to allow their student-athletes to make money while still in school.

Since the order was passed, 800 NIL transactions have been made by 250 UK athletes, according to Barnhart. 

“That would clearly indicate that not every student-athlete has a desire to be in that space, but those that want to be in that space, it’s really important that we protect them in that space,” he said. 

With the lack of understanding that accompanies NIL, Barnhart mentioned the importance of treading lightly. 

“Something that’s really important to understand is the intention of everyone who’s involved,” he said. “Some people do it for competitive equity for other institutions. Some people do it for the welfare and the ability of student athletes to exist in the space. Some do it for their own personal financial gain at the expense of the student athletes. Some of them want to leverage relationships for future gain, whether that might be something to agent representation and those kinds of things.”

Barnhart noted that the bill would protect both the athletes and the universities, as they traverse through the ever-changing landscape of NIL. 

“We’re seven months into [NIL] and we know so little about it,” he said. “We know a lot about it on one hand, and we don’t know where it goes from here. I think this bill gives flexibility to grow in that space.” 

Calipari echoed Barnhart’s sentiments, citing the importance of balancing opportunities for the players and schools. 

“I’m confident with your interest, as well as mine, we will share in creating the best opportunities for players, while at the same time allowing mens basketball at UK to remain the gold standard,” he said. 

That “gold standard” has drawn the attention of potential suitors for NIL deals, prompting Calipari to become invested in newfound territory surrounding his team.

“My focus is my 12 [players], and this affects my 12. I just want to make sure that my voice is heard because I’m in the middle of this,” he said. “I’ve done this a long time and my perspective would be one that may be able to help somebody if they’re not sure.”

While Calipari’s priority lies in Lexington, he stressed the gravity of all of the universities in the Commonwealth taking part. 

“It’s up to the universities to do their part, and I think every one of them are going to step up and do what’s right for these kids, and that’s what we should all be about,” he said. 

Barnhart and Calipari emphasized their commitment to putting student-athletes first, regardless of the contingencies that could come with the world of NIL. 

“I continue to believe in the transformative power of college athletics. It is essential to who we are and what we do,” Barnhart said. “Developing student athletes toward their after-college career is at the core of what we do.” 

SB6 will now move to the full senate for a vote at a time to be determined. 

Update: SB6 passed through the Senate unanimously, 37-0 and will now head to the House of Representatives for approval.