Why did Taxpayers Pay Jim Calhoun $1.5 Million When He Didn’t Even Coach?

Everyone agrees former UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun is among the best hoops coaches of all time; a hall of famer; a winner of NCAA championships; a molder of young minds. He is still a great ambassador for the university and a notable philanthropist. That said, The Shad will even put aside for the moment the fact his program produced pathetic academic achievement (to the point where it was bounced from last year’s NCAA tournament) and that his program was caught cheating. The real question is, why was Calhoun paid $1.48 million in 2013 when Kevin Ollie coached the team?

That’s right. When Kevin Ollie took the reigns of the UConn basketball team for the 2012-2013 season, the taxpayer-funded, flagship university was paying Calhoun big-time coaches’ money. Where’s the outrage? There is none because Calhoun put up the “W’s.”

How is it possible that Calhoun was paid nearly $1.5 million as a “special assistant” to Athletic Director Wade Manuel? UConn Associate Director of Athletics for Communications Mike Enright explains it this way, “The majority of that amount came from a $1.15 payment for media services that was in his coaching contract and remained in his transition agreement. The balance is base salary money both from his coaching position and then his current position on a pro-rated amount. His base salary is currently $300,000 annually.”

That makes perfect sense (although he must have been one hell of a “media server” to pull down $1.15 million for it). But it doesn’t negate the fact that just last month, UConn President Susan Herbst was crying poor in front of the legislature’s appropriations committee at the same time she was employing probably the nation’s highest-paid “advisor” and banquet speaker last year.

“We are pretty much down to the bone,” Herbst told the legislature’s budget-writing committee back on February 24th. “We’ve made about as many cuts on the non-academic side as we can. We are going to have to start in the academic side, and it’s very, very worrisome. It’s dangerous.” This plea for financial help comes despite the $15 million infusion from the state the school will receive for fiscal 2014-15 to fund the “Next Generation” initiative.

It’s blasphemy in Connecticut to question Calhoun, his coaching or his salary. The sycophantic sports media in the state is proof of that. The situation in which Calhoun’s program was caught cheating by the NCAA stands as an embarrassing example. In 2010, Calhoun was cited by the NCAA for “failure to monitor and promote an atmosphere for compliance… [and] failed to monitor the conduct and administration of the men’s basketball program.”

UConn had to forfeit three scholarships—one each through the 2012-13 season—and serve three-years of probation with restrictions on calls and contact with recruits. Worst of all, director of basketball operations Beau Archibald and assistant coach Patrick Sellers “resigned”—sacrificial lambs and patsies whose careers were put in jeopardy in order to take heat off the King James Calhoun. Then, in a final insult to fans and taxpayers, the school bestowed upon the coach a new, $13-million contract.

The state legislature needs to find the backbone to actually oversee the institution into which it pours hundreds of millions of your money. Calhoun should be a volunteer at this point. Of course, he may head for greener pastures anyway.