Hey, did you guys hear that a ‘reporter’ asked UConn coach Jim Calhoun last weekend if he, as Connecticut’s highest-paid public employee, planned on doing anything to assist with the nearly-$1B budget deficit that the state is facing? “Not a dime,” Calhoun joked. This story took on a life of its own throughout the entire last week, as various Connecticut legislators and public dignitaries weighed in on the weighty subject of Calhoun’s salary, not to mention the many in the chattering class who quickly and assiduously came to his defense.
Well, it’s high time for a positive story about a coach’s salary. The NY Times’ college sports blog, The Quad, reported today that Southern Miss head coach (and former party dude) Larry Eustachy has decided to give back a $25,000 bonus that he earned based on various incentives. From the article, Eustachy said:
“The university, fans and administration have been so supportive. I am part of the Golden Eagle family and I want the team and program to succeed more than anyone else does. To that end, until I can turn around the program I have told the administration that I do not want a contract extension and I will donate part of my compensation package back to Southern Miss to help during these difficult economic times. I want to win a championship at Southern Miss and I know that we can do it.” Southern Mississippi Athletic Director Richard Giannini accepted Eustachy’s offer. “I think it displays the sincerity he has for trying to turn the program into a successful program,” Giannini said. “I respect him for what he did. He knew the economic times we were having and we need to use every dime we can find.”
We really have to try hard here to not take the cynical standpoint and view this as a last-ditch effort to save the job of a coach who has yet to near matching the success he had at his previous stop, Iowa St. In Eustachy’s five seasons in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss has yet to make an NCAA Tournament or an NIT, and at 14-14 this season there is virtually no chance of a postseason again this year. It would be easy to put yourself in Eustachy’s shoes, thinking, after all, $380k (Eustachy’s base salary) isn’t as good as $405k, but it’s light years better than $0.
But there’s too much cynicism in this world already, so we’ll give Eustachy, a recovering alcoholic, the benefit of the doubt here. It’s not like coaches who are clearly on their way out the door (ahem, Jerry Wainwright) make it a common practice to give back their bonuses in trying economic times, or like, ever. So Eustachy should be genuinely commended for this selfless act – heck, something like this is so uncommon that Southern Miss should give the guy a lifetime contract for his largesse.
Now, if we could just get some of the other basketball CEOs around the nation who are regularly stealing taxpayer dollars to start giving something back. Not to point fingers, but we’d start in Eugene, keep going east through Boulder and probably settle in Raleigh. Just sayin…