Induction of Kahn causes controversy

By on November 17, 2004

Former head basketball coach Burt Kahn’s induction into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame is rekindling the sparks of a past Quinnipiac controversy.

Issues dating back to 1974 are causing controversy as to whether or not the recently deceased Kahn is eligible to receive the award.

The issues, mainly over women’s rights, monetary expenditures, and other discriminatory issues, were all outlined in a document released by the Independent Action Group in April of 1974.

The IAG, in protest of the preferential treatment and policies of Burt Kahn, claimed to be a “coalition of Quinnipiac students representing various groups,” which they felt were being discriminated against.

The group produced a petition signed by over 800 students and faculty, according to the IAG’s documented accounts.

On numerous occasions, the ill treatment of women was brought up by IAG activists.

Though they paid the same fee as men, women in 1973 were only allowed use of the gym once a week from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., where they were “historically shoved off the court at 9 by the basketball team.”

Even still, the College Sports Online web site claims Kahn was a “pioneer in women’s sports,” expanding their sports teams from three men’s sports in his earlier career, to eight men’s and eight women’s sports by his retirement.

In opposition, IAG members claimed that Kahn was known for using personal attacks.

In an article written by The Chronicle in October of 1973, a student claims Kahn became “antagonistic,” saying, “If you weren’t a gal, I’d kick you right out of here. Why don’t you go home to get a spanking from your mother?”

Also documented was discrimination against men. One male member of the IAG claimed that Kahn”‘wouldn’t let him on the team bus because he was wearing a high-riding pair of galoshes,” and “a ragged-edged jacket.”

Among the many other issues outlined in the document, Kahn was said to have “unchecked power,” which the IAG claimed was used to “manipulate facilities and students.”

With an allowance of $45,000, Kahn was accused of spending only $2,000 on men’s intramural sports and none on women’s intramurals. The remainder was spent on varsity sports.

Despite the numerous accusations against Kahn, some say they remember Kahn for the legacy he left.

Ed Roulhac, former captain of Quinnipiac College’s basketball team, defended Kahn’s tactics.

“Coach Kahn’s teaching philosophy is that only the strong can endure and master,” Roulhac said.

“He taught the reality of the working life. The weak ones, the negators, fall by the wayside. What I mean is that the majority of people complaining are those that don’t understand that he’s showing them that they have to be on time for work, that they have to be knowledgeable and able to perform well in their job, that they have to be resourceful, that they have to be able to follow instructions well, and that they have to be aggressive.”

Roulhac said Kahn’s lessons and policies were essential for succeeding in life.

“He is teaching, too, that there are many other important attributes that are needed to make it in this world.”

Bill Mecca, current Quinnipiac senior associate athletic director who served as Kahn’s assistant, said the community should remember Kahn for his achievements.

“Burt’s passing gives us all a chance to reflect on the significant impact that Coach had on not only myself, but the entire Quinnipiac community as well,” Mecca said.

Mecca said that impact affects Quinnipiac even today.

Quinnipiac’s gymnasium was renamed Burt Kahn Court in Kahn’s honor in January of 1996.

“I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him. He will be missed, but fortunately, legends last forever,” Mecca said.

“I’m disappointed that someone would attempt to defame such a legend in Quinnipiac history. I worked with Coach Kahn from 1978 to his retirement in 1996, and found him to be steadfast in his support of the Quinnipiac community on a daily basis,” Mecca said.

“He certainly is more than deserving.”

“Burt Kahn’s 34 years as Athletic Director and Coach placed Quinnipiac in position to elevate our programs to the NCAA’s highest level,” Jack McDonald, Quinnipiac Director of Athletics and Recreation, said.

Kahn’s accomplishments include his Quinnipiac school record of winning 459 games, leading Quinnipiac to six seasons of 20 or more wins and 24 trips to the post-season, being twice named Coach of the Year by the New Haven County Tap-Off club, an induction into the Quinnipiac Athletic Hall of Fame in 1979, earning the Gold Key Award from the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance in 1986, and two achievement awards in the 1992 Final Four in Minneapolis.

Kahn passed away on July 6, at age 74 and was inducted into this year’s New England Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 14.


About Mindy Matteis