Jim Calhoun was in a charitable mood talking on his cell phone from Washington D.C. in no small part because he’d scored “some pretty good seats” at the Capitol for the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Not as good as Muhammad Ali or Magic Johnson, to be sure. But as Calhoun cheerfully noted, “Mariah Carey was sitting near us. That was pretty good.”
Calhoun’s choice location reflected the fact that over the last two decades, he’s brought two national championship trophies back to Connecticut and helped put the campus in Storrs on the college basketball map. It didn’t hurt, either, that Calhoun has also been one of the state Democratic party’s more visible supporters for most of that time, or that his Huskies currently sit at No. 3 in the Associated Press poll.
Which explains why he was close enough, in any case, to hear the new president talk Tuesday about something that’s been on his own mind lately.
“Shared responsibility,” Calhoun explained. “To me that means when we accept a kid, we make a commitment to him and he makes one to us. ... But I’m never the only reason a kid graduates or not, just like I’d never take credit as the one and only reason a kid makes it to the NBA.
“Everybody at the school, beginning with the recruit himself,” he added, “has a role to play in both of those decisions.”
At the NCAA’s annual convention last week, its Division I board of directors approved a plan to begin publishing a number alongside every coach’s name effectively measuring whether the kids who sign up to play basketball for him make reasonable progress toward degrees and go on to graduate.
The NCAA has been publishing APRs — Academic Progress Ratings — for schools since 2005, but intends to begin listing them for coaches on an affiliated Web site by next summer. The organization says it will give recruits and their parents, not to mention the school that might want to hire that coach next, one more tool to make an informed decision.
Though Calhoun would be loath to admit it, there’s another number that’s even more important to the prized recruits that powerhouse programs like his fight most fiercely over. In Calhoun’s case, that would be 21 — how many kids he’s sent to the NBA since arriving at UConn, including the 14 currently playing.
With Ray Allen’s $22 million-a-year salary with the Celtics at the top and Kevin Ollie’s $1.3 million from Minnesota at the bottom, the mean income for that group would make the school’s law- and medical-school graduates look like paupers.
But Calhoun is just as proud of the kids who played basketball for him and went on to become probation officers, pro ballplayers overseas, teachers, Wall Street brokers, even doctors and lawyers. He’s happy to share credit for the way each turned out, as long as blame is apportioned the same way. The NCAA already has sanctions on the books, ranging from loss of scholarships to postseason bans, to punish schools with chronically low APR scores.
“I just don’t see what’s gained by singling out coaches. There are things I can teach a kid and things we do to help them mature. That’s my job as an educator,” Calhoun said.