Outside » Left Field

The Salary Question

It takes a special kind of temperament to coach competitive sports at any level. In the amateur world it's usually a parent or some dedicated

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It takes a special kind of temperament to coach competitive sports at any level. In the amateur world it's usually a parent or some dedicated volunteer who is willing to put in long hours for little or no pay to give young athletes the kind of chance that they themselves had as kids.

At the college and pro level, it's another thing entirely. Coaches are highly paid celebrities whose salaries are subsidized by taxpayers either directly through public institutions or indirectly through publicly funded stadiums and other giveaways. Add that together with a win-at-all-costs mentality that is pervasive throughout college and pro sports and you have a recipe for a special kind of megalomania. We got a great example of this over the past weekend when a part-time journalist/activist goaded University of Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun into a tirade about his salary. According to CBS Sportsline, Calhoun is set to make $1.6 million in the final year of his contract that expires at the end of next season.

The freelance journalist and "political activist" Ken Krayeske who questioned whether Calhoun would forego some of his salary as the state faces a nearly billion dollar shortfall this year has been lambasted by sports fans for questioning Calhoun's largesse. (The coach has brought the small school two NCAA championships and broad recognition.) But he raises a good point: Just how much is too much. While some fans might not have appreciated the post game conference (After all the then #1 ranked UConn had just knocked off cellar dweller South Florida.) as a venue for the discussion, it's something worth pondering. Calhoun isn't the only one. According to the New York Times, Pete Carroll made about $4.5 million last year as USC's football coach. But this isn't just about coaches, or one coach, it's about re-prioritizing our nation's needs. Because it doesn't matter how good your coach is if your schools (and roads and bridges, for that matter) are crumbling.


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