Daily Archives: April 1, 2009

Calipari: Busting Budgets and Mixing Messages

Kind of mild here in NE Ohio in the early am. I hit the concrete shortly after learning from the Weather Channel online that the temp was 59 degrees. Wow. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday it was a chilly 30 degrees. And as I made my running tour of the neighborhood, I was thinking how quickly things change and how effortlessly we move from one story to the next these days.

Last week as a nation we were collectively searching for pitchforks. The better to give a little poke to the AIG execs who were depositing million-dollar bonus checks courtesy of Mr. and Ms. Taxpayer.

And this week we watched GM CEO Rick Wagoner drive off into retirement with a $23 million package — as his amigo Fritz Henderson took the steering wheel and pointed the auto maker on the road to a forced bankruptcy. Note to GM employees, retirees and family members: You may want to invest some of your retirement savings in a sturdy pair of Teflon underpants. You’ll need them in the next few weeks. I digress.

Anyway, today we have another story about a richly rewarded CEO, John Calipari. And the mixed messages his hiring as basketball coach at Kentucky sends about executive compensation, education and so on.

Calipari is expected to announce today that he is moving from Memphis to Kentucky. Presumably, just like Jim Calhoun, the head sled of the Connecticut college basketball franchise, Calipari will be the highest paid state employee, receiving an eight-year contract at $4.1 million per plus incentives. And he is expected to get a signing bonus in the $2 million plus range. Gee. That’s AIG money. (By the way, most people in Connecticut don’t care one whit how much Calhoun earns. This is the same state that two weekends ago had people riding tour buses to demonstrate outside the homes of AIG execs. March Madness.)

And, according to Newsday, the governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, is making chump change by comparison. He just took a 10 percent salary cut to $111, 945. Oh — and by the way. The University of Kentucky just hiked undergrad tuition by 5 percent.

OK. OK. I know we’re comparing textbooks with basketballs and jock straps here. And I imagine that most of the Calipari money is coming from a Kentucky booster club. And I know — there was never a SRO crowd to see me teach a class in media ethics. OK. OK. I get it. College sports rule. And Calipari is at the top of his game. (Note to Louisville Board of Trustees: Rick Pitino will be paying a visit about a new contract shortly.)

But doesn’t this at least raise a few questions — about priorities, about the responsibility that public education officials have to be good stewards of funds on behalf of taxpayers, students and so on?

This is not the best of times for public education at any level in any state. Obama and team had to put nearly $40 billion into the recently passed economic stimulus package just to bolster public education and prevent massive job losses among teachers at all levels.

And Kentucky is slated to receive some $30 billion in federal money — with 30 percent of it going to bailout education. Ah. If Johnny can consistently hit a three-pointer, does it matter if he can read or write? I digress again. But you get the point.

It’s about priorities. It’s about leadership. And it’s about the mixed messages that organizations — public and private — send each and every day.

By the way, Fritz Henderson is going to make a little over $1 million a year as he tries to salvage something of what is now the nearly defunct GM. And most people if asked would say he is overpaid.

Go figure.