Press conferences are a delightful combination of eccentric behavior, frustrating clichés and fluctuating emotions that make sports journalism so appealing to guys like me.
Some days it may not seem like it, but there really is something special to speaking with a coach or player right after they’ve engaged in an on-field battle. That’s why I’m frustrated by the actions of a writer who badgered University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun this past weekend.
The reporter, apparently trying to make a name for himself, repeatedly questioned Calhoun on his annual salary of 1.6 million dollars. That sum makes him the highest paid employee in the state. Calhoun, instead of having to explain why his team only put up 64 points against a sub-par University of South Florida, found himself having to justify his paycheck in front of the assembled press corps.
I’m not suggesting that 1.6 million isn’t an absurd salary for someone to coach college basketball players, but this overzealous do-gooder needs to learn that there are appropriate times and channels for that line of questioning. There’s a reason I’m the Sports Editor here at The Recorder. I don’t have the mental strength to follow political, economical, and social intricacies. I’m far too aloof to recognize perceived injustices. I wrote just last week about the negativity in the sports world, a place that is supposed to be an escape for our society.
Coach Calhoun doesn’t have to justify his salary, neither do the second and third highest paid state employees UConn football coach Randy Edsall and women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. They generate tremendous amounts of revenue, and have more or less built programs. The vast majority of the athletes they coach will not be turning pro in their respective sports. These coaches, just like the coaches here at CCSU, are motivating the athletes to do their best in every aspect of their lives. The impact of such mentors cannot be measured in a paycheck.
When I sit in on a press conference after a tough loss and see Coach Howie Dickenman wring his hands from start to finish, I know there’s no greater motivator for those kids in the locker room than this coach sitting in front of us. When Coach Jeff McInerney asks the reporters after the game if we mind that he sits down, it’s tough not to laugh. He’s only been executing a meticulously detailed game plan, meeting potential recruits, and managing over 50 kids between the ages of 18 and 22 for the last six hours.
Not once during the past year have I wondered what any CCSU coach makes in a season, and frankly, I don’t care to know. I know we’re in a recession, depression or whatever nickname they’ve come up with for it this week. Making a high-profile coach take a pay cut is not going to fix America’s economic troubles any time soon. That’s fixing a gaping wound with a single band-aid.
Calhoun may be a state employee, but he built a program from the ground up that not only makes millions for UConn, but think of the economic stimulus each Huskies game at the XL Center brings to the surrounding businesses in an otherwise dreary Hartford.
The writer, whose illustrious accomplishments include writing for High Times Magazine, has a “manifesto” on his Web site, which more or less endorses vandalism. Mentioning his name or home page would just garner him publicity I don’t feel like handing out. In the ensuing article, the writer floats the notion that a pay cut from Calhoun could help sustain programs at the University, providing scholarships and equipment for other sports.
Here at CCSU, the Ice Hockey Club is in dire straits, being financially abandoned by the SGA. Never in my wildest dreams would I ask a Central coach or faculty member to take a pay cut in order to fund that program or any other on campus. I hope aspiring journalists would have the common sense to do the same instead of playing hero to hippies.