Jim Calhoun’s Rant, College Athletics, and Bailout Populism

Ah government bailouts, they’ve brought us so many wonderful things. Economic hardship, grand standing politicians, floundering executives, and now a blow up from Uconn basketball coach Jim Calhoun. After recording his 800th career win, Calhoun came under scrutiny during a press conference for his $1.6 million dollar salary. As the highest paid Connecticut state employee, a reporter asked, would Calhoun be willing the give any of it back?

Apparently not, and why should he? Calhoun didn’t run the state of Connecticut into debt. He didn’t destroy shareholder value. He didn’t mislead anyone. All he did was achieve remarkable success that merited a lucrative contract in the eyes of the university. What this shows is the ridiculous populism brought on by hard economic times. Everyone with a high salary has a bulls-eye on their back. It’s true Calhoun could have been more graceful with his response, and perhaps he deserved a reprimand from the governor, but he is not a villain. Now the question of coach compensation in college athletics is another issue entirely. At Open Education, Thomas says that Calhoun may be suffering from an overinflated ego. That may be true, but who inflated it? Who made college basketball so popular? Who bought the tickets to his games? Who watched them on TV? It’s too easy to look at celebrities, athletes, and executives and say that they’re the problem. We created them. We could have spent our time on high minded pursuits, but we wanted to watch March Madness, or read the latest gossip, or spend more money on our credit cards. The problem with America is us, and only way to fix it is changing the way we think and act.

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