Over and over I watched the stirring video last week of Jim Calhoun’s press-conference tirade – it was 73 seconds of commercial-free entertainment gold – in which the Connecticut men’s basketball coach was asked to defend his $1.6 million salary in the face of the state’s billion-dollar budget deficit.
As an alert, if somewhat prone, observer of the academic, athletic and financial culture of America, Couch Slouch learned several lessons from Calhoun’s testy exchange with activist Ken Krayeske:
After basketball games, basketball coaches only want to talk about basketball, you know, stuff like rebounding and turnovers and bad officiating. Krayeske ambushed Calhoun after beating South Florida in regard to his salary – that would be like grilling Al Capone after a gangland hit about his taxes. At least Krayeske had the good sense not to pester Calhoun following a UConn loss.
Now, everyone knows where I stand on big-time intercollegiate athletics, but I am not going to run Calhoun up the flagpole for being paid to do his job. In fact, if I were offered $50,000 to sit atop a flagpole in the buff for an hour while humming “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” I believe I’d be in line at the bank depositing the check before I considered the social ramifications of my work in a tough economy.
Calhoun is not responsible for the state’s fiscal crisis, nor is he required to act on it. This is the way it works in the New World: They offer you the money, and you take it or leave it. He took it.
Still, Calhoun should be sensitive to the fact that many of his fellow state workers are suffering cutbacks. The coach interrupted his inquisitor with the following words: “Not a dime back.” Not a dime back? Workers earning far fewer dimes in Connecticut will be forced to make concessions, but the state’s highest- profile and highest-paid employee says NOT A DIME BACK? Ouch.
The governor of Connecticut and two state legislators reprimanded Calhoun for his outburst. Oh, please.
Where does education fit into all this? It never has. UConn – like many institutions of higher earning – brings in 18-year-old athletes to sell tickets and TV rights to basketball games. In return, the athletes get a scholarship to a university in which they scarcely attend classes.
Academics, as always, is incidental. Or as Calhoun put it in response to one question, “What was the take tonight?”
You see, from dawn to dusk from coast to coast, it is always about money; that’s the way we keep score in America. Calhoun was hired to win and earn. “We make $12 million a year for this university,” he exclaimed. I immediately thought: T-shirt opportunity! On the front, it says, “We make $12 million a year for this university,” and, on the back, it says, “NOT A DIME BACK.” You could move 5,000 of those babies at $17.95 each in a single day through Storrs alone.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Is the stuff they put on the PBA lanes priced per barrel and controlled by a Middle Eastern cartel? (Stuart Kleiner; Pepper Pike, Ohio)
A. That’s why I only bowl online these days – I don’t want to give another nickel to those Arab oil barons.
Q. A-Rod has come clean. Has that motivated you to admit to anything? (Barry Josowitz; Pittsburgh)
A. I used pediatric arch supports in 1971 during a youth piano recital.
Q. Much like the low fives and butt slapping after a missed free throw, did your groomsmen meet you in the courthouse hall after your divorces for similar moral support? (Scott Wittliff; Mukwonago, Wis.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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