Big Ten athletic directors face difficult balancing act

June 14, 2010
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“Not a dime back!”

It kept ringing in my head—over and over again.

“Not a dime back!”

While chewing on my Wheaties this morning and reading in The Indianapolis Star about all the things Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass wants and plans to do with the millions of dollars from the Big Ten’s expansion, I couldn’t help but think of Jim Calhoun and his now semi-famous tirade during a press conference in February, 2009.

“Not a dime back!” Calhoun said incredulously when asked during a post-game press conference about his salary.

And who could blame him? Calhoun is a rainmaker. His University of Connecticut men’s basketball team has brought the school and the state a lot of money.

Indeed, a lot of money. And don’t forget the prestige.

Forget for a moment that the state of Connecticut was facing about a $2 billion deficit when Calhoun made his retort. And forget that Calhoun is a state employee—and the state’s highest-paid employee.

The fact remains he brings UConn a lot of money. Did I say he brings the school and state a lot of money—and don’t forget the prestige. You can’t put a price tag on the type of prestige Calhoun brings to his employer—and the state he calls home.

I don’t know Jim Calhoun, but if I were a gambling man, I’d bet he didn’t come up with that line of thought all by himself. My guess is that message has been pounded into his head by his agent as long as he’s had an agent.

So what does Jim Calhoun have to do with IU’s need for a baseball field and swimming scoreboard?


And everything.

Just about every NCAA Div. I basketball and football coach has an agent. And all these coaches hear the same message from those agents—you’re the rainmaker. You make the cash register ring. You’re what the fans are cheering for. Go on, take the money. You’ve earned it.

And it starts to ring true.

These coaches didn’t get into the sport to make a killing. The love of the game in most cases is what brought them to this point. But over time, the message started to sink in.

Come on, supply and demand.

The ability to bring young people together to achieve at this high level is a rare skill indeed.

The state budget isn’t your concern. Is it really your problem that swim teams refuse to compete on campus because of a broken scoreboard? After all, if it wasn’t for the money the football and basketball programs rake in, there wouldn’t be a swimming and diving team.

Agents get paid on commission. If the Big Ten is the recipient of the kind of windfall sports business experts predicts, due to the expansion of the conference and its television network, those agents will be the first in line to get their client and themselves a cut. A big cut.

I think IU’s Glass has good intentions. The very best intentions. And I mean that with all sincerity.

I think he’s a good  and capable man, trying to manage a balancing act that if successful would land him a job as a star high-wire act in the Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Glass isn’t alone. Purdue’s Morgan Burke and the rest of the Big Ten athletic directors are in the same boat.

Maybe there will be enough left over for a new scoreboard for the IU swimming and diving team and maybe a new baseball yard down in Bloomington to boot.

But that won’t change the fact that the biggest piece of this money is going right back from whence it came.

Gotta feed the rainmaker, baby. We all prosper when the rainmaker’s making it rain.

Not a dime back!

A penny, maybe. A nickel? Well, who knows?

But not a dime back!

  • Rainmaking at IU
    We all know the old expression "it's raining cats and dogs". With Crean, let's leave out the cats because the only rainmaking he's doing is for the dogs. And how does that warrant a slice of pay bigger than the one he has which he doesn't deserve?

  • There is a reason why Peyton Manning gets paid the most and the ball boy gets chump change. Peyton is the Colts rainmaker and gets paid accordingly.

    It seems iu is having trouble maintaining its facilities, not just in sports, but the Star says most facilities. I cannot speak for other B10 universities, but Purdue does not seem to have that problem. First class natatorium, building a new baseball and soccer facility etc.... From my friends kids who attend, the educational buildings are kept up as well. Seems iu may need to work on their budgeting.
    • What's up at IU?
      I guess there's two ways to look at it at IU. It's difficult to believe you couldn't carve out enough money of Tom Crean's contract ($2 million per year) to at least cover things like a swimming score board. On the other hand, with the paltry contract IU has given football coach Bill Lynch, you'd think they'd have a few extra bucks to pay for stuff like a swimming score board.
    • IU Cash Drain
      The poor comparison of IU's problems to Purdue's may be fairly simple, too many ex-coaches and others still on payroll, too many contract "settlements" and not enough bodies in the stands. I wouldn't advise putting the burden to correct past misteaks on the back of Crean and Glass. If they can survive long enough to create some interest and finish paying off past mistakes, things should get better.

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