By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
When Gov. Bruce Rauner called a press conference last month to announce he was filling vacant Board of Trustee positions in an effort to turn Chicago State around, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. While CSU has more problems than probably any other school in the state, school administrators and politicians aren’t serious about making CSU a productive school anymore. If they were, they would take care of the “elephant in the room” problem first. And the one that shines brighter than the Northern Star is women’s basketball Head Coach Angela Jackson.
Jackson has been at the school now 14 seasons. In that time she has managed to produce a record of 131-278 as of the Crusader’s deadline last week. And that includes the current team’s record this year of 0-27. That amounts to a career winning percentage of .320. Let me remind you Chicago State is a Division I basketball program. D1 coaches get fired for having winning seasons let alone ones as bad as Jackson’s.
A New York Times article a few weeks ago attempted to paint Jackson as a victim of CSU’s financial crisis. Stop it. She’s been a bad coach for years, but she has been cashing her check despite the University getting little in return.
The real slap in the face to Illinois taxpayers and the CSU community is Jackson makes nearly $100,000 to be bad at her job. And nobody at CSU or anywhere else in the state seems to care. Her base salary of $99,996 per season (don’t ask me why they didn’t just give her the measly extra four bucks) extrapolated over the course of her career means Jackson has made over a million dollars at CSU. Talk about hitting the lottery.
This is the salary for a coach who failed? At a time when over 300 CSU employees have been laid off in the past two years because of the University’s budget crisis, Jackson has remarkably remained. The University deemed professors, janitors and parking attendants – people doing their jobs – expendable; but Jackson wasn’t?
She has shown no signs of getting better either. Jackson’s best season at CSU was 2010-11 when the team went 24-10. Since that time, her record has been dismal filled with three four-win seasons, one three-win in 2014 and a six-win in 2012. That’s 21 wins in six years, that won’t cut it for a varsity high school coach.
Not only has this year’s team not won a single game, Jackson hasn’t even been able to fill her roster with players so they can have a full scrimmage at practice. The Lady Cougars started the season with nine players. They’re now down to seven after one player got injured and another just flat out quit the team.
In all fairness, CSU coaches have been limited this year and told to recruit only in the Chicago area to save money, according to CSU Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tracy Dildy. But that’s no excuse seeing that high school and club basketball is more popular in Chicago than practically any other place in the world and there are plenty of players who go unrecruited each year. Hell, recruiting the Public League alone Jackson should be able to have a full team. While Dildy’s record hasn’t been much better the past three seasons, he at least has 14 players on his roster.
You can’t tell me you can’t offer a full-ride scholarship to a four-year university to a kid nowadays and they are going to turn you down when nobody else is recruiting them as much as college costs. It’s ignorance, laziness or not caring anymore and that is not towards Jackson, it’s towards CSU administrators, who’ve allowed the situation to get to this point.
The athletic department at a Division I school is supposed to bring in revenue to the school – it’s about making money, period. That means the teams must win! The women’s basketball program is costing the school money. Their largest crowd so far this season has been just over 300 people. Most games the crowd is 150 or less. So why are the Lady Cougars playing their games in a 7,500-seat arena at the Jones Convocation Center and not the 2,500-seat Dickens Center? CSU is probably losing more money just by opening the building to host women’s basketball games. I can only imagine how much it costs to heat and turn on the lights in that place, all for a few dozen fans. It is mismanagement plain and simple, which is something Governor Rauner noted last year when he said CSU was “throwing money down the toilet.”
Well you were right Governor, but what are you going to do? Keep flushing like the Lady Cougars current season?