PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Calhoun Encounter with Reporter Should Have Been Prevented

with 22 comments

This past Saturday UConn defeated South Florida 64-50, but the real match-up came in the postgame press conference. A freelance journalist/political activist, Ken Krayeske, kicked off the Q/A by asking UConn Coach Jim Calhoun about his salary.

You can catch the exchange in the video above, but Krayeske went pretty hard at Calhoun regarding his approximate $1.6 million salary, and asked if Calhoun should return some of that money due to a huge budget deficit in Connecticut. Calhoun didn’t hold any punches either, telling Krayeske he suggested he “shut up”. Calhoun also let him know that his program brings in $12 million to the university annually, and that he would have been happy to speak with Krayeske one-on-one if he had actually come with some facts.

According to the Hartford Courant, a UConn spokesman said Krayeske had a photo credential and he e-mailed during the week to say he was working on a UConn basketball story and needed photos to run with it.

Before I get into how this exchange should have been prevented, I’d like to make it clear that I have not spoken to anyone at UConn, so I’m making some assumptions on their credentialing procedure. But, this exchange could have been prevented or at least minimized. My intent isn’t to slam their staff, but to use this as a learning experience. A few questions come to mind:

1) If Krayeske isn’t a regular media member that covers UConn basketball, why was he credentialed after just sending an e-mail, especially being a freelancer?

In a case like this you have to get a fax on outlet letterhead from the editor of the publication requesting the project. An e-mail from a freelancer is not enough to get a credential.

2) I know there are a lot of talented reporters out there, but it seems odd that a writer would also be the photographer taking photos for a story.

This was probably covered by the UConn PR staff, but that would have been one of the first things to raise a red flag for me.

2) Did Krayeske give any indication during the game that he was a fraud, and why was someone with a photo credential allowed to ask a question in the postgame press conference?

In my experience, someone that has secured a credential but really isn’t there to cover the game almost always tips their hand. Usually it’s right off the bat in the pregame media access. Typical signs are showing little interest in the pregame access, not covering it at all or not seeming interested in the game. I usually made a note to keep my eye on someone like that, especially if I didn’t already know them.

3) Whether or not the UConn PR staff was keeping an eye on Krayeske, they should have stepped in once the question was asked with, “Anyone have any questions related to the game?”.

This is always a tough spot for a PR person. It can be very difficult to know whether or not to end an interview or line of questioning, but this was a case where Calhoun needed to be protected. Even if you think Krayeske’s questioning was valid, the postgame press conference was not the time or place. Calhoun was right in that Krayeske’s questioning was something that should have been handled in a one-on-one setting.

Again, this isn’t to bash the UConn PR staff, it’s to learn from a situation that could have, and probably should have, been prevented. Krayeske probably shouldn’t have even received credentials, but the questioning definitely should have been stopped before it escalated.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the situation, either from the PR side, or even regarding Krayeske’s line of questioning, as that’s generated some heated debate as well.

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Written by Brian Gleason

February 23, 2009 at 3:20 am

22 Responses

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  1. Calhoun is a big boy, and with a seven figure salary, should display the EQ of an executive leader. He didn’t, and all the protection in the world won’t remove this fact.

    Michael

    February 23, 2009 at 6:38 am

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for stopping by. I won’t disagree, Calhoun could have handled this better, but at the same time this “reporter” was completely out of line. The postgame press conference was not the appropriate setting for his line of questioning, so I can see how Calhoun got upset.

      Also, no matter how much money Calhoun makes, the job of the PR staff is still to step in and prevent something like this from becoming the main story after a game.

      Brian Gleason

      February 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm

  2. In fairness to the UCONN PR staff, we really don’t know much about the situation. The reporter probably faked or lied his way through a lot of things. Hyper-vigilence may have prevented this situation but this was entirely the fault of the reporter and I am glad he got slammed for it.

    Poppa Burgundy

    February 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    • Again, my goal here wasn’t to slam the UConn PR staff, just to use this as a learning experience on how this could have been prevented. This is a very difficult situation for a PR person, especially stopping a line of questioning during a live press conference. When you stop a live interview you have to be 100% confident that you’re doing the correct thing, not an easy decision.

      Brian Gleason

      February 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

  3. I actually thought the reporter looked much worse than Calhoun. Therefore, it’s the media outlet that requested the credential for this reporter that has a PR issue. Sure, Calhoun could have handled a bit softer, but he had every right to defend himself. I wouldn’t look differently at the UCONN PR staff – that is unless there were OBVIOUS signs during the course of the game that this reporter should have been removed prior to the post-game interview. But again, we don’t have this info.

    John Sternal

    February 23, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    • I agree that the reporter came off looking bad in this situation, but with that said, I’m sure Calhoun and UConn’s PR people would prefer that this never happened or at least didn’t blow up as a national news story as it has. I think there are some things that might have prevented or minimized the reach of this story. Of course hindsight is 20/20 as they say, so this has to be viewed as a learning experience.

      Brian Gleason

      February 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm

  4. Just for the purpose of healthy dialogue, if it was the goal of the reporter to bring college athletic coaching salaries into the public forum for debate, Calhoun’s response was more successful than his question.

    Had Calhoun handled it well, it would have never reached the vast audience it did. Regardless of what happens to us, we can always choose our reactions to events.

    From what I am reading here and elsewhere, people are acting like Calhoun was a victim to justify his unfortunate behavior.

    Seven figure executive leaders like Calhoun should be skilled enough to handle law students/political activists like putty without losing their cool.

    Michael

    February 23, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    • I disagree. I can agree that Calhoun could have controlled his temper a little better, but the reporter did purposely railroad him. But, from everything I’ve read and heard, the general consensus is that Calhoun came away the winner if there is one. Many more people seem to think Calhoun was justified in his response, although I still think UConn would prefer that it hadn’t happened.

      Brian Gleason

      February 23, 2009 at 8:22 pm

  5. I believe I read in Jeff Jacobs column that the reporter is a law student at UConn. Perhaps this played into the PR staff letting their guard down.

    Bottomline: It was not the appropriate place for that question, and it was asked to incite a reaction. Sure, if he had approached Jim Calhoun in private or through the appropriate channels, he probably doesn’t get a response, but unless he is producing a segment for Hard Copy or the O”Reilly Factor that is not the way to go about getting the response.

    Jeff

    February 23, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    • A.Fetah,You know what Melese Zenawi said when asked to allocate money to reovnate the existing stadium? (not build a new stadium)His answer to the parlament members: Let’s eat and drink (food-water) first, then we worry about 22 so called athletes’ run around chasing a ball Proposal revoked!and I tend to agree with him not a good investment for the whole Ethiopia.

      Nurfadillah

      May 23, 2012 at 10:53 am

  6. Well, if we all felt the same way about everything what a terribly boring world we would live in. Can’t help but challenge “appropriateness” and “justified” in relation to the response.

    I can’t qualify to my children that telling people they are stupid and they need to shut up is innappropriate, except for when being railroaded by nosy political activists pretending to be reporters at a press conference.

    Michael

    February 23, 2009 at 11:30 pm

  7. Michael,

    Why do you have to qualify it at all? Tell your children what you believe is right. No one here is saying Calhoun is a victim. I think most people here are just looking at it from the perspective of a PR professional.

    I think the point you are missing is people are not saying Calhoun was victim, they are saying the reporter was more in the wrong than Calhoun. I guess it is a who threw the first punch situation. Some people are better at making stupid reporters look stupid (Bill Parcells, anyone?) without coming off as a boorish jerk. Calhoun failed to represent himself well, but the argument is that he should never have been put in that situation in the first place. That is what PR people get paid for.

    In closing, I guess I would say if you are looking for Div I coaches to be the example for your children, you had better find new role models ASAP. Integrity and morals are in short supply with that particular profession.

    Jeff

    February 23, 2009 at 11:53 pm

  8. Jeff, it’s the same situation here, really. I’m really offended by your suggestion that I use Division I coaches as role models for my children, and how I react to it is entirely of my choosing, regardless of whether I am protected by others or not.

    Michael

    February 23, 2009 at 11:59 pm

  9. Brian,

    Just to qualify my potential bias here, I am a huge Villanova basketball fan and one who does not particularly like Mr. Calhoun, but who can appreciate his accomplishments.

    I had not thought of this from a PR perspective as you had. I think you’re right, a UCONN PR person would have been justified to step in here, especially knowing Calhoun’s generally intense personality. A PR person must know their client inside and out. Also, Calhoun has been coaching a long time and should know better than to create Mora-esque or Gundy-esque sound clip, whether he’s right or not, and appease the reporter, but the PR people need to train or re-train Calhoun to handle off-topic questions like that one with a “No comment” or with the Belichikean “I’ll answer questions about the game today.” They also could have done more research regarding the reporter, as you stated.

    Ultimately, it’s not about who was right or wrong, but who was more wrong and, to me, the writer is more at fault than Calhoun and its reporters like him that give honest & ethical reporters a bad name.

    Calhoun built the UConn men’s basketball program from the ground up and, IMO, he deserves every bit of his salary, especially given how many students want to go to UConn in part because of the great basketball tradition he began.

    According to this article: http://bit.ly/HqJ6J, the UConn men’s basketball team brought in less than Calhoun’s salary (in italics at the bottom). I would really like to see what the program brings in on a yearly basis and if Calhoun is indeed correct.

    What do you think?

    Tom O'Keefe

    February 24, 2009 at 4:42 am

    • Hey Tom,

      Thanks for checking out the blog. I think you’re right all the way around. The situation could have been handled better by both, but the “reporter” definitely came off looking worse to this point, and from a PR perspective the entire episode could have been prevented.

      Now UConn is going to have to field all types of media requests looking for the basketball department’s revenue and looking to discredit Calhoun if he was incorrect in his statements, which it’s looking like he might have been. Seems like an entire can of worms has been opened here, and it could have been prevented if handled differently, of course as I said, hindsight is 20/20, but this can be a learning experience for PR people.

      Brian Gleason

      February 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm

  10. Hey Brian! I just blogged about this too – less from the perspective of credentialing and more about the fact that guys like Calhoun who are in front of the cameras a lot need to be trained (repeatedly) and comfortable handling situations like this without blowing up.

    I agree that it seems fishy Krayeske was even able to make it into the press conference in the first place. And I don’t think it would have been too inappropriate for one of the UConn staff to step in before Calhoun had a chance to blow up (given that I’m guessing he has a tendency to do so) and stop things before they started by letting Krayeske know that it wasn’t the right forum and moving on to another topic.

    amymengel

    February 24, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    • Hi Amy,

      Yes, it seems like there are plenty of PR steps that could have been taken to prevent this, everything from media training, vetting credentials better to flat out stopping the line of questioning.

      In defense of UConn’s PR staff, it can be very intimidating to tell a coach of Calhoun’s stature that he needs to be media trained, or to step in and interrupt his press conference, but as we know that’s their job.

      Brian Gleason

      February 24, 2009 at 8:42 pm

  11. I also read the article that Tom mentioned. Until seeing the clip just now I thought only Calhoun was in the wrong. But now, like he said, I believe Calhoun was still in the wrong, but the reporter was wrong too, and more so.

    In my mind, Calhoun crossed the line when he told the reporter to shut up. Though I think a “no comment” response would’ve been inadequate, if he had just said he’d be happy to discuss the issue one-on-one in the first place, this could all have been avoided. Sure the question shouldn’t have been asked in the first place, but Calhoun should have handled it better.

    Regardless, Calhoun’s reaction will certainly hasten further scrutiny into coaches’ salaries.

    From a PR perspective I don’t know what more could be done by the UConn staff, but the staff will certainly be able to use it as a learning experience when and if future scuffles arise.

    Katie Bailey

    February 25, 2009 at 1:02 am

  12. […] PR in Sports, a new sports PR blog run by Brian Gleason, takes a look at this situation at what the UConn PR staff could have done to prevent this situation from getting blown up in the mainstream media as well as the blogosphere. Whether or not the UConn PR staff was keeping an eye on Krayeske, they should have stepped in once the question was asked with, “Anyone have any questions related to the game?”. […]

  13. […] a comment » I’ve been debating on whether or not to run a follow-up post on the Jim Calhoun/Ken Krayeske issue with the story being nearly two weeks old, but it seems the 24-hour news cycle doesn’t […]

  14. Aw, this was a very nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this meoeovrr – taking time and precise effort to make an excellent article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and under no circumstances seem to get something done.

    Liziane

    May 23, 2012 at 6:09 am


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