Cleaning out the locker

By Jack Wickham

It is always interesting to me when the issue of salary comes up in sports. I have heard countless rants from sports fans and non-fans alike lividly denouncing Lebron James’ $60 million dollar contract extension, or Trevor Immelman’s fat $7.5 million check from the Masters Tournament. I am not going to support these exorbitant salaries, nor am I going to denounce them. Yes, I think that there are jobs out there that deserve to be paid more, and yes, I do think that $275 million over ten years is a bit much, even for A-Rod. That is not the point I am trying to make here.

There are appropriate times to address this, and then there are inappropriate times. The men’s basketball coach of the University of Connecticut, Jim Calhoun, was the unfortunate victim of the latter. Granted, Calhoun is usually fairly explosive in his post-game press conferences, so it’s not rare to see him get extremely agitated. However, this time his anger had nothing to do with his team’s easy win over the University of South Florida.

Ken Krayeske, a political activist and journalist, started a line of questions about Calhoun’s salary, alluding to the fact that Calhoun makes a staggering amount working at a state school in a state that has a deficit of almost $1 billion. At first, Calhoun responded jokingly, answering “Not a dime back”. However, as Krayeske continued his questions, Calhoun quickly got angry.

“My best advice to you: shut up. .Quite frankly, we bring in $12 million to the university, nothing to do with state funds. We make $12 million a year for this university. Get some facts and come back and see me.”

Reactions have been mixed concerning his outburst. UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma rushed to Calhoun’s defense, asserting that the question was unfair “in any setting”. On the other side of the issue is Connecticut governor Jodi Rell, who called his reaction “an embarrassing display”.

Quite frankly, I’m with Auriemma and Calhoun. It is one thing to make commentary on the salaries of sports figures. It is another completely to ask a personal question in a press conference dedicated to discussing recently played game. Perhaps it’s because I’m from Connecticut, and I know that UConn is a very well endowed college, and that the basketball program (one of the best in the country) does do a lot for the school, but for Calhoun, it seems to me that there was no graceful answer to that question.

I felt compelled to write about this because people rarely consider where the overpaid sports figures are coming from. Do I think they should be paid as much as they are? No. But, would you refuse that salary if you were in his position? Next time you complain about some coach or athlete making more than you, think it out.