Story/Photo By Ken Krayeske • 2:00 AM EST
It's not until I look at this picture, taken by me February 21, 2009 in Hartford at UConn's win over U South Florida, that I realize perhaps Calhoun drew such a hard line in the sand because he understood the question of a basketball coach taking a pay cut in this budget crisis means that his staff would take a pay cut, too. But it's bigger than that - the question implicates all Division I revenue producing teams at public schools, and NCAA president Myles Brand knows this. Brand called Calhoun earlier this week to support Calhoun in the firestorm after his post-game press conference tirade on me last week.
The New Haven Register editorial board, facing bankruptcy itself, has seen the light. In an editorial from Friday, Feb. 27, titled "Top UConn Coaches Should Give Back," the Register said:
It took a political gadfly to ask a question at a postgame press conference that would normally never be uttered in the self-adoring world of University of Connecticut sports.
Since the state faces a deficit this year of nearly $1 billion and as much as $8 billion over the next two years, would Jim Calhoun, coach of UConn’s men’s basketball team, consider taking a cut in his more than $1.6 million salary?
"Not a dime," snapped back Calhoun, who also earns big bucks from commercial endorsement deals. "We make $12 million a year for this university. Get some facts and come back and see me," Calhoun shouted before telling his questioner, Ken Krayeske, to "shut up."
Actually, Calhoun, the state’s highest paid employee, should get his facts straight. Depending on how the money is calculated, the men’s basketball program brings in $12 million a year in revenue, but has more than $6 million in expenses.
Asking the state’s highest paid employee whether he would take a pay cut is not unreasonable when Calhoun’s boss, Michael Hogan, president of the University of Connecticut, already has effectively done that.
Hogan, who earns $613,908 a year, last year turned down a $100,000 bonus in response to the state budget cuts at UConn. Hogan was already contributing $1,000 a month of his salary to a UConn scholarship.
Krayeske’s question to Calhoun should also be put to UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who had a salary of about $1.31 million in 2008, and UConn football coach Randy Edsall, who got about $1.38 million.
That editorial apparently ran in Middletown and Torrington, too - (h/t to Shoe on that one).
Out in Oklahoma, Tulsa World sports editor Mike Strain wonders if I just asked the question of Calhoun to be provocative. Okay, if that's what you want, sir, I provoke. I did a little number crunching out on some basic budget stuff in the Sooner state. Scroll all the way down here for my exposition on OK athletics.
The state budget in Oklahoma is short $610 million, and the top four paid coaches out there earn a combined $10 million or so. And T. Boone Pickens just gave $165 million to help build his stadium at his alma mater Oklahoma State University.
A federal tax donation allows Pickens to write off that $165 million, according to Higher Ed Watch. "Are Tax Deductions for College Athletics Worth the Price?" by Lindsey Luebchow from October 2007 examined the validity of the subsidy:
The question of whether contributions to college athletic programs should be tax deductible is not just academic. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the largest athletics departments raised more than $1.2 billion from alumni in 2006-2007 for multimillion-dollar facilities and seven-figure coaches’ salaries. The enormous success in athletics fundraising efforts, however, may be coming at a cost. Alumni giving for academic programs at Division I-A schools has been stagnant in recent years. As a result, the Chronicle found that "contributions to sports programs are eating up an ever-larger share of donations to colleges," from 14 percent at these schools in 1998 to 26 percent in 2003.
This begs the question: is this $1.2 billion taxpayer-supported revenue stream furthering the educational, tax-exempt purpose of higher education? And if not, might contributions to academic programs increase if the tax deduction for athletics wasn't available?
College officials generally argue that increased spending on athletics, and in turn winning sports teams and increased school visibility, translate into satisfied alumni and more donations for the school overall. Unfortunately, this "happy alumni" hypothesis doesn’t appear to hold true. Studies of alumni giving have found that winning sports teams don’t have a significant effect on colleges—and even in situations when donations do increase, they are typically athletic donations, not general academic donations.
So, it doesn't look like the athletic department sacred myth of the millions may not be so true, after all. And all of this was started by a blogger, who, according to a bill generated by the House of Representatives down in Congress, is not a journalist at all.
The Citizen Media Law Project reported that a proposed federal shield law making its way through Congress excludes bloggers. The Senate definition encompasses bloggers:
the regular gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.
But the House version of the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2009" limits journalism by defining it as a profession. As written by southwestern Virginia Democrat Rep. Rick Boucher, the shield bill eliminates bloggers like me from First Amendment protections:
The term "covered person" means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.
I don't like the House version. Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) must not have warned his good buddy Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) about bloggers. Graham co-sponored the Senate bill with Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
Plus, you can see me bloviate on TV here.