The UConn men’s basketball team may no longer be ranked No. 1 in the
national polls, but head coach Jim Calhoun’s $1.6 million salary was
the number-one topic being discussed on the national sports talk shows
“That basketball program has put UConn on the map. That program is a walking
advertisement for that school. Does it mean better students go there?
Yes it does, yes it does,” said highly popular New York City pundit
Mike Francesca on his WFAN afternoon show.
Calhoun would be “cheap at twice the salary for what he’s done there,” he said.
What prompted this defense of Coach Calhoun? Practicing the ambush
journalism popularized by “60 Minutes” in the 1980s, a political
activist, Ken Krayeske, wangled his way into Calhoun’s post-game
interview after the Huskies beat South Florida at the XL Center on
Saturday and confronted the coach about being the highest-paid state
employee during a time of fiscal uncertainty.
According to the Associated Press, the state’s deficit for this fiscal year is $944 million.
So, what began as an amiable enough Q&A, quickly deteriorated to the
point where Calhoun told Krayeske to “shut up,” and then came down on
this erstwhile sportswriter and told him – three times, as a matter of
fact – to “get some facts and come back and see me.”
Calhoun then made the point that his seven-figure salary is a small percentage
of the eight-figure revenue provided by the men’s hoops program, although it is unclear if that figure is gross or net and how much actually accrues to academic programs.
“We turn over more than $12 million to the University of Connecticut -
which is state run,” said the obviously irate coach, who restrained
himself from dumping on his inquisitor as though the questioner had
been a ref who’d fouled out Hasheem Thabeet on a questionable call late
in a tight game.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=3925051 for the one-minute exchange.
More Calhoun defenders
“Mike” of the former talk show “Mike & The Mad Dog” (which changed names
when the longtime twosome split up a few months ago) also came to
Calhoun’s defense, saying the coach is “a guy who has taken a program
that was nothing and has built it into one of the three or four top
basketball programs in the United States. I don’t think there’s any
coach that has meant more to a university in the past 20 years than he
“And don’t forget what he’s done in terms of giving money back through the
charities he runs, and how he’s put UConn on the national level and
brand(ed)” the Huskies as a major player in the NCAA, he said.
Francesca wasn’t the only “Mike” defending Calhoun on the national mic’s Monday.
Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” – referring
to Krayeske’s line of questioning – said the “idiot reporter put two
and two together and came up with five. The big basketball programs,
especially the successful ones, make a lot of money and that doesn’t
even include the billions CBS pays for the rights to the NCAA
How does Calhoun’s salary compare?
Calhoun’s salary is only slightly more than the annual amounts paid to women’s
basketball coach Geno Auriemma, and football coach Randy Edsall.
Mike and Mike discussed how some college football coaches in high profile
programs are said to have annual salaries in excess of $4 million, and
how it’s more common than not for coaches to make twice as much as
their college’s president.
“They don’t pay these guys all this money because they seem like nice people;
they pay them the big money because it makes sense for the university
to do it,” Greenberg said.
Most observers of the NCAA agree that a successful sports program will
enhance a school’s visibility nationwide, attracting academically
gifted students from near and far – while also serving as a magnet for
successful alums wishing to share their financial good fortune in
exchange for the opportunity to partake in the university’s athletic
On the other hand…
Krayeske may or may not have been out-of-line in his questioning, but he was
apparently emboldened by a creeping (some say even creepy) fiscal
philosophy in this country which the Democrats have come to call
“sharing the wealth” and the Republicans deem to be Socialism with a
If you make too much money – and the problem here is, who is the
determiner of “too much” ? – you are fast becoming a persona non grata
in those circles where some believe that people are entitled to buy
houses they can’t afford.
But unless Krayeske or anyone else can prove differently, it seems UConn can afford to pay more than a million a year to Calhoun – and to Auriemma – and to Edsall.
On the other hand, Krayeske isn’t alone in questioning UConn’s salary
scales. In a recent op-ed piece in UConn’s student newspaper, The Daily
Campus, writer Brian Carroll urged UConn President Michael Hogan to
take a pay cut in his $550,000 salary, given the $23.8 million that has
been cut from UConn’s budget through 2010.
It’s doubtful Carroll’s plea will bear any more fruit than Krayeske’s
taunting, but if the the 36-year-old blogger from Hartford wasn’t
successful in getting Calhoun to voluntarily take a pay cut, he
certainly got the country talking about the high cost of college
Here’s another question – Will some critics now come to believe that
high-priced college coaches should be grouped with that recently
designated “national pariah” – the corporate executive?