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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

Big Ten athletic directors face difficult balancing act

June 14, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

“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?

Nothing.

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!
 

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