SBD/January 27, 2011/Colleges

UConn Offers Support For AD Hathaway, Reaches Out To Burton

UConn standing behind AD Hathaway despite criticism from large donor
Univ. of Connecticut officials yesterday said that they have been "on the phone with unhappy benefactor Robert G. Burton and that they stand behind" AD Jeff Hathaway, according to Desmond Conner of the HARTFORD COURANT. Burton in a letter to Hathaway last week "demanded $3M in donations be returned," and indicated that his relationship with UConn was "done for good." UConn interim President Philip Austin and Board of Trustees Chair Larry McHugh said that they "had phone conversations with Burton on Tuesday, when news of his request broke, but neither would reveal details of their discussions." McHugh: "We're going to be having conversations, OK? The conversations have not ended." Austin and McHugh before a Board of Trustees meeting yesterday "expressed support for Hathaway and for the process that led to the hiring" of new football coach Paul Pasqualoni, a process Burton disagreed with. Conner notes the "goal now with McHugh, Austin and Hathaway appears to be keeping the lines of communication open with Burton," who provided one of two $2.5M lead gifts for the construction of the on-campus football complex. Hathaway said, "This is about the University of Connecticut and a donor and somebody that has been supportive -- as have many, many people -- been supportive to the university. I think Chairman McHugh and President Austin said that they hoped there will be future communications, and I would expect there would be" (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/27). McHugh: "I really hope to try to mend fences and move forward. The Burtons have been very supportive of the University of Connecticut and we would like that to continue." He declined to "go into specific details about his conversation with Burton, but said he hopes to sit down with him in the near future to discuss the matter." The two have never met. McHugh: "I would say, the conversation, I was pleased with it" (GREENWICH TIME, 1/27).

OUT OF LINE? In Connecticut, Mike DiMauro notes UConn employees and athletes yesterday "offered varying opinions" about Burton and his demand. One university employee said, "Burton may have gone about it the wrong way, and his language was strong, but the overall message needed to be said. We can't afford to lose any more donors, especially ones like Burton." But former UConn football player Rob Lunn said, "Don't labor under the delusion that donating money, even $3 million, gets you into a film room or gets you any real input on game planning" (New London DAY, 1/27).
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