Jim Calhoun For Governor?

By now, you must have seen the replay of the “Jim Calhoun news conference/confrontation” at least a dozen times. Many have said that the question posed to him was inappropriate because of the time and place where it was asked; many have said that Calhoun was far too thin-skinned and over-reacted to the questioning. Whatever…

Jim Calhoun asserted that the UConn basketball program turned over $12M to the University of Connecticut annually. That figure made me sit up, take notice, and focus on a different angle with regard to the confrontation.

Coach Calhoun did not say if the $12M was a net profit from the basketball program or if it was the gross revenue from which expenses had to be subtracted. That is not very important to me because there is no way that the UConn basketball program costs $12M a year to operate. If that $12M figure is even close to correct, then UConn basketball is a “profit center” and a “money-maker” for the university – - and by extension for the State of Connecticut.

The “gotcha-reporter” who asked the question thought Calhoun was making too much money annually but if I were a taxpayer in Connecticut – - and I have never been one – - I would be very pleased to know that he is making money for a State-run enterprise. Clearly, the vast majority of the State expenditures go to activities that do not return an excess of money to the State; they run in the red. So, even if the UConn program only earns a net income of $1 for a year, that’s a whole lot better than running at a loss in these problematic economic times.

The reporter seemed to think that there was something improper about Jim Calhoun making more money than the Governor of the State of Connecticut. In some broad philosophical sense, he is probably correct. [For the record, Calhoun also makes more money than the President of the United States.] Nevertheless, I think it would be a serious mistake for the Connecticut Legislature to introduce a bill to raise the Governor’s salary to a level where it exceeds Jim Calhoun’s. Remember, Calhoun runs his program in the black. Would that the Governor of Connecticut – and the governors of the other forty-nine states – had the ability to do the same.

Since I was on the topic of Jim Calhoun, let me make a couple of observations about two college basketball games I caught over last weekend. I saw about half of the Providence/Notre Dame and watched Notre Dame win the game 103-84. At one point, there was a screen graphic indicating that Providence had yielded 90+ points in seven of its last eleven games. Looking at the Providence record for the year, they are 16-11 at this point but 6 of their wins have come over cupcake opponents such as Brown, Dartmouth, Maine, Sacred Heart, Jackson State and Bryant University. Maybe if they played some defense, they would be better than a .500 club against live competition?

Butler beat Davidson at Davidson over the weekend and that was the eleventh win for Butler on the road this year. Very impressive… Last year, Davidson made a great run in the tournament to the Elite Eight but this year the team has faltered every time it took on one of the “big boys”. Davidson has lost to Oklahoma, Purdue, Duke and Butler. Their two wins outside of the Southern Conference and a similar level of opponents have come against NC State and West Virginia. Stephen Curry is still an exciting player to watch, but I think that teams are no longer surprised by Davidson and by Curry as a player and that explains why the good teams seem not to have fallen victim to last year’s “giant-killer”.

Do you realize that if the NBA playoffs started with the teams standing as they did going into last night’s games, there would be three teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs with records at or below .500? Making those putative playoffs would be Detroit (27-27), Philly (27-28) and Milwaukee (28-31). Meanwhile, in the Western Conference the Phoenix Suns would be out of the playoffs at the moment with a record of 31-24.

David Lee is a power forward for the NY Knicks and he is having a highly successful season this year that many people have not heard much about. I know it is hard to believe that Lee is under-appreciated and under-publicized playing in NYC, but that is the case. Consider that he is averaging 16.6 points per game, 11.9 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game in about 36 minutes per game. That is more than a solid performance from a guy who is never mentioned when the discussion turns to naming highly valuable players in the NBA for the 2008-09 season.

According to a website that tracks NBA salaries, David Lee will earn $1.79M this year; only one player on the Knicks’ roster makes less than Lee does; Wilson Chandler – whom I could not distinguish from Woodrow Wilson or the mayor of Chandler, Arizona – will make only $1.17M this year. Meanwhile, the Knicks are on track to pay Stephon Marbury $20.8M this year to stay away from the team. On that basis alone, David Lee may be the biggest bargain in the NBA for the year.

Tell the truth, did you immediately remember that Wilson Chandler played college basketball at DePaul? I did not…

Sometimes it is important to put things into historical perspective and sometimes the historical perspective can be painful for sports fans. Chicago Cubs fans might not like to focus on this picture:

    1. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was in the Fall of 1908.

    2. The Cubs now hold Spring Training in Arizona.

    3. Arizona did not become a state until Valentine’s Day in 1912.

    Connect those dots to understand how long it has been since the Cubbies were champions…

Finally, here is a comment from Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle regarding the Oakland Raiders’ recently concluded interview processes in search of a new head coach:

“The Raiders like to point out that not everyone who comes in for an interview with Al Davis is a head-coach candidate. What these Raider people need to realize is that after Lane Kiffin, most of us assume that anyone who sets foot inside the Raiders’ compound and isn’t carrying a broom is a candidate for head coach.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Peter  On February 25, 2009 at 10:21 am

    In most states the head football and basketball coaches at the state university handily outearn the governor.

  • Rich  On February 25, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    The highest paid college coach is Pete Carroll, with more than four million hogs worth of compensation for the year. It also makes him the highest paid state employee in the nation.
    I would guess that the football program at USC helps to fund the entire athletic department there.
    How much do the players make?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm


    Probably true by a wide margin in many cases. Even coaches as major institutions who are “underpaid” relative to their peers (such as JoePa at Penn State) make more than the governor. A recent lawsuit over freedome of information revealed that JoePa made $500K as the PSU coach.

    That is a lowball figure relative to other coaches who frequently have their teams in the Top 20. That is also more than Governor Ed Rendell makes…


    Surely USC football is a profit center; I would suspect that USC men’s basketball is similarly a profit center. It is hard to imagine that any other sport at USC breaks even…

    The players “make” whatever is the value of their scholarship/Pell Grant. At least the players don’t have to pay taxes on what they “earn”…

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