Hey UConn, Don’t Come Asking the Legislature for More Money

Next year, the University of Connecticut—the flagship university supported with Connecticut taxpayers’ money—will pay $4.4 million to its football coaches. Fired coach Bob Diaco will rake in a $3.4 million (down from $5 million with some working of the calendar) and old/new coach Randy Edsall is guaranteed $1 million. Brilliant work with public money, don’t you think? Let’s say it now: NO more money from the legislature.

The school has tried to convince anyone who will listen that taxpayers aren’t paying the million dollar salaries, that the money comes from the revenue the sports programs generate. Nice try. Not buying it. The Hartford Courant reports the state provides approximately 28 percent of the revenue funding UConn’s overall $1.3 billion budget.

Fired UConn football coach Bob Diaco.

Fired UConn football coach Bob Diaco.

It’s been a yearly dance for school President Susan Herbst and the General Assembly. She comes in, cries poor, tells lawmakers that academic Armageddon is at hand and asks for more money. The legislature, long a bastion of UConn sycophants, should take a stand and say, “No!” Or more accurately, find a way to keep your football coaches’ salaries under a million dollars—combined (the basketball coaches are another matter but still get crazy cabbage).

It doesn’t take an expert in higher education funding to see that paying $3.4 million to a coach not to coach is nuts. It’s in Diaco’s contract, I get it. But it doesn’t make any less onerous. It would be one thing if UConn football was a powerhouse, or even mediocre. It’s not. They suck. They suck bad. They scored 16 points in their last four games–total.

Edsall is a retread who had nominal success in his first run before bailing on the team after a bowl game without even speaking to them. Judgement, Mr. Edsall, Judgement. Edsall won four more games than he lost at UConn (74-70). He was shown the gate at Maryland midway through his fifth season. He lost two more games than he won there. Not exactly Lombardi-esque.

New/old UConn football coach Randy Edsall.

New/old UConn football coach Randy Edsall.

While UConn spends millions on its coaches, Herbst can be counted to complain that the schools not only can’t sustain cuts like the rest of the state budget, what it gets is not enough. It was just last May when she told the board of trustees’ financial affairs committee, “We’re seeing some slippage…This is going to happen across the board, whether it’s research productivity or the time it takes for students to graduate or retention. The more the budget cuts hit us, the more these indicators will slip.”

UConn president Susan Herbst.

UConn president Susan Herbst.

It’s projected that UConn will have to close a $69 million budget shortfall. Testimony to the committee was that the university has had to slow its faculty hiring, with a resulting drop in the ratio of faculty to students from 1-to-16 to 1- to-17 (Hartford Courant). That happens when you’re paying coaches millions to go away.

UConn got a nearly $11 million increase in funding in 2015 and said it will still come up short. In 2014, Herbst told the state legislature’s budget-writing committee, “We are pretty much down to the bone…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 came despite the $15 million infusion from the state the school was scheduled to receive for fiscal 2014-15 to fund the “Next Generation” initiative.

The bottom line is that at the very least, the optics are bad. The worst is there is some serious mismanagement of UConn’s finances. We can start by making sure the coaches who are getting millions actually coach.