College Basketball’s Bargains and Busts

In college basketball — and in life — the most successful people are supposed to make the most money.
It doesn’t always work out that way.
When University of Connecticut head basketball coach Jim Calhoun scoffed recently at a complaint about his $1.6 million guaranteed salary in the face of a state budget crisis, he defended it fiercely, setting off a firestorm about a profession where a growing number of coaches are paid lavishly by taxpayer-funded schools.

At least Mr. Calhoun has two national championships, a consistent record of success and brings immeasurable exposure to the school — all of which arguably makes him worth the money. But at a time of increasing scrutiny of spending on sports, plenty of schools are getting far less for their money. “It’s all about leverage over the athletic department,” said Craig Fenech, a longtime agent who negotiated John Calipari’s first deal with the University of Memphis — which pays him $2.5 million. “A coach’s job is to manipulate. If you think that stops at the gym door you’re crazy.”