By now, you’ve probably seen clips of Jim Calhoun’s press conference following the Huskies’ victory over South Florida on Saturday night. Freelance reporter Ken Krayeske decided to grill Coach Calhoun about his status as the highest paid state employee in these tough economic times. Coach Calhoun acquitted himself well, handled the reporter and added some of his old-school toughness, inviting Krayeske to “talk to me outside.”
Since Krayeske brought it up, let’s examine a few of the reasons why Coach Calhoun is worth every penny that he is paid:
Show me the money
Calhoun estimates that UConn basketball brings in $12 million to the school. Sounds like a healthy return on a $1.6 million investment. But Calhoun and UConn basketball also played a significant role in these multi-million contracts that UConn secured in 2008:
- A 10-year, $80 million deal with IMG College; and
- A $45.5 million deal with Nike (that included $12.5 million in cash to the university)
Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty
Calhoun has been at UConn for 22 seasons. His success – he is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame , has won two national championships, and has sent a host of players to the NBA- has provided him the opportunity to coach at almost any school in the country, but he has stayed at Storrs.
Having moved to Connecticut about a decade ago, I was astounded by the popularity of UConn basketball. Connecticut may lack a professional sports team, but UConn has filled that void. UConn basketball is an immense source of pride for most Connecticut residents. UConn’s AD Jeff Hathaway said it best, as quoted by the Connecticut Post’s Chris Elsberry:
It gave the university community and it gave the state of Connecticut something to embrace, something to wrap their arms around, whether you were an alumni of the university or just a fan or friend. That success gave people something to believe in and call their own, and in so many ways became the pride of the state of Connecticut.
Do you think UConn would have made the move to Division I football if the university hadn’t experienced success on the basketball court? Would UConn be planning a trip to Notre Dame this season, preparing for a series with Tennessee and filling Rentschler Field without the previous success of UConn basketball?
Connecticut certainly faces significant economic problems. Coach Calhoun’s contract is certainly not one of those problems. And if you think that he is, perhaps you should step outside and talk to him about it.