Lawmakers want Calhoun reprimanded

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly's higher education committee say UConn coach Jim Calhoun should be reprimanded for his tirade at a freelance journalist who questioned his $1.6 million salary.

Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, and Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Lakeville, say Calhoun's outburst Saturday does not reflect well on him or the state's flagship university.

"His recent behavior was unacceptable and we request that the university take appropriate disciplinary action to reinforce the high ethical standards we have come to expect from our flagship institution," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to UConn President Michael J. Hogan.

Both legislators said Calhoun should be reminded that he is a role model for many athletes and students.

In a statement, Hogan called Calhoun a "valued member of the UConn community" and said the reporter was also to blame for the controversy.

"The question he was asked about his salary was perfectly fair, although the reporter, as Coach Calhoun suggested, might have found a more appropriate and less provocative setting for his inquiry," Hogan said. "I am sure that we all regret the controversy, including Coach Calhoun, and I can assure you that we will continue to encourage all members of the UConn community to resist temptation and treat others in a judicious and respectful manner, no matter what the circumstances."

Calhoun won his 800th career game Wednesday when the No. 2 Huskies beat Marquette. He is the highest-paid state employee in Connecticut.

Late Thursday, Calhoun issued a statement and said his comments were "misinterpreted" as being insensitive to the current economic climate.

"I believe I have a duty, responsibility and obligation to support the state I love and the many people and organizations of Connecticut that are in need," Calhoun said. "I look forward to continuing with the same amount of passion and commitment to assist people and causes that are important to me and my family."

Handley and Willis said they are proud of the achievements of Calhoun and his players and acknowledged the school's standing and reputation has improved with UConn's rise to athletic prominence.

"However, with increased success and recognition comes increased responsibility," they wrote to Hogan. "Coach Calhoun's actions were not in keeping with the high ethical standards that we expect from a representative of the University of Connecticut."

Ken Krayeske, a political activist and freelance reporter, questioned Calhoun at a news conference following Saturday's 64-50 win over South Florida. He asked why the coach of a public university collects a salary of $1.6 million while the state has a budget deficit of more than $1 billion this fiscal year and up to $8.7 billion over the next two fiscal years.

Calhoun first responded with a joke, then grew angry as Krayeske continued the line of questioning.

"My best advice to you is, shut up," Calhoun said.

"Quite frankly, we bring in $12 million to the university, nothing to do with state funds," Calhoun said. "We make $12 million a year for this university. Get some facts and come back and see me ... Don't throw out salaries and other things."

Earlier this week, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell told reporters that she believed Calhoun regrets his outburst and called the tirade an "embarrassing display."