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SBD/January 26, 2011/Colleges
UConn Donor Robert Burton Asks School To Return His $3M Donation
Published January 26, 2011
KEEP ME IN THE LOOP: According to the letter, Burton "called Hathaway on Jan. 3 and asked to be 'kept in the loop' with the hiring process for the next football coach." Burton noted it was the "same process" that former UConn AD Lew Perkins had with him when Edsall was hired. Burton wrote that he "didn't hear from Hathaway again until Jan. 13, when the process ended." He added that he "did not support the hiring of Paul Pasqualoni." DiMauro notes Burton's decision to "cease all donations comes at a time of great challenge for the athletic department's fundraising efforts." Department sources said that revenue from donors is "down almost $9 million from five years ago" (New London DAY, 1/25). In Greenwich, Neil Vigdor notes Pasqualoni was "clearly not the choice of Burton, whose youngest son Joe played for the coach at Syracuse" from '97-'01. Burton's middle son, Michael, was "captain of the football team in 1999 at UConn" (GREENWICH TIME, 1/26). In Hartford, Paul Doyle reports Burton's letter also was sent to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, incoming UConn President Susan Herbst and UConn Board of Trustees Chair Lawrence McHugh (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/26).
BULLY PULPIT: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes, "All the money in the world cannot buy class. All the money in the world cannot buy maturity, dignity or a sense of priority." Burton is a "bully" and an "egomaniac." Jacobs: "This isn't SMU from the 1980s. This isn't the wild, wild west. And to that point, UConn and its search should be commended for respecting the process" (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/26). In Greenwich, Chris Elsberry writes under the header, "Burton Sounds Like An Unhappy Child Slamming Hathaway." Elsberry: "I have read this letter several times and I have to admit that the tone sounds more like an unhappy child who didn't get his way and now wants to take his ball and go home, rather than a respected father of a UConn graduate who is genuinely concerned about the well-being of the football program" (GREENWICH TIME, 1/26). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser asked, "Who is this guy that I have to run the next coach by him? ... He contributed $3 million and got his name on the entire complex. You know what $3 million gets you in Nebraska or Alabama or Tennessee? Doesn't even get you a parking spot." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "This is what's wrong with college football now. Some guy gives a bunch of money and becomes a fat cat and wants a parking space and the best seat in the box on Saturday and now he says, 'I want to be able to take over your job and name the coach.' Give him nothing and say, 'Get lost'" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/25).
A LIMIT TO HIS POWER: A New London DAY editorial states Burton is "way out of line." Contributors "who make large donations to college athletics can designate how they want money utilized, but they don't get to dictate how the program is run -- at least not officially." The editorial: "As insufferable as this millionaire's tantrum may be, it is a reality that keeping major donors and their big egos satisfied, without crossing ethical lines, is the challenge of any major football program" (New London DAY, 1/26). ESPN's Tom Luginbill said, "There's got to be a fine line of managing the whims and wishes of high-end boosters and donations, and then letting those people hijack your program. In the end, a donation is meant to be for the betterment of the overall athletic program at the Univ. of Connecticut or any other institution." But Luginbill noted Burton's donation may be more important for UConn "than it is for some other programs." Luginbill: "Unlike an Alabama or maybe an Ohio State or a USC, where there's 15-20 Robert Burton's standing outside the door if one falls by the wayside, you may not have that same luxury at the Univ.of Connecticut." The New London Day's DiMauro noted Burton is "largest donor to the football program, so I would say he's about as important as they get" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 1/25).