Iowa State Cyclones

T.J. Otzelberger’s Massive Buyout Could Keep Kentucky Away

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Houston

There aren’t many basketball programs out there that are as prestigious as Kentucky. Aside from Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina, there aren’t names with the same kind of brand power as the Wildcats.

When reports that John Calipari was going to leave to take the job at Arkansas, athletic directors across the country sighed and started taking a look at the buyouts associated with the head basketball coaches’ contracts. Because if Kentucky comes calling, there’s not a coach in the country that isn’t going to answer and at least hear an offer.

Baylor’s Scott Drew and BYU’s Mark Pope are among those listed as potential candidates, but Iowa State’s T.J. Otzelberger is also someone to watch.


After inheriting an Iowa State team that went winless in Big 12 play in 2021, Otzelberger has taken the Cyclones to consecutive Sweet 16 appearances and turned ISU into a defensive stalwart.

This season, Otz led the Cyclones to a Big 12 Tournament Championship with a dominant win over No. 1 Houston and took them to a Sweet 16 before they fell to Illinois.

As a legitimate program builder, the thought of giving Otzelberger the resources that Kentucky could offer is terrifying, but one thing could actually keep that from being a reality: His buyout.

Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard did a fantastic job in providing some protection for his head basketball coach, with Otzelberger’s buyout currently sitting at $17.5 million. Compare that to Dan Hurley’s ($7.5M) or Scott Drew’s ($4.5M) and he looks to be far less liable to be the final landing spot for UK. However, Alabama head coach Nate Oats is in the running and has an $18 million buyout, so there might not be a price too high.

It will be interesting to see how much Kentucky’s donors are willing to fork over to land their next head coach, but my gut says that they’ll be willing to pay whatever it takes to get the right guy after 16 years under John Calipari.

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