UNCONN – DONOR FUED OVER, BUT WHAT’S CHANGED?

The denizens of University of Connecticut supporters and alumni appear to be happy now that money-bags, big-time donor Robert Burton has decided he’s not going to take his multimillion-dollar ball and go home. Gee, what a relief. The question we’re left with is, “What has changed?” as in, what happens the next time Rich Uncle Pennybags isn’t consulted on what type of fake butter goes on the popcorn?

The Hartford Courant reports that through the efforts of UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh and Vice Chairman Tom Ritter, Burton has decided to look past this one incident and continue to support UConn. Phew! Do you know how much it would have cost to remove those huge letters on the Burton Family Football Complex building? A building, by the way, that the taxpayers paid for many time more than Burton’s $3 million.

The whole situation borders on pathetic. Yes, big time college sports rely on big time donors. But at what point did UConn give Burton the idea he had some sort of role in picking a new coach—the major issue in the dispute? Burton complained that UConn Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway (he of the free-car-from-a-local-dealership scandal) wasn’t fit to run a Div.1 football program. He might be right. But not because of how he runs the school’s sports program. But because he and anyone else at UConn (McHugh? Ritter?, et al) allowed things to get to the point where a donor was under the impression he had such sway on key decisions.

And the major problem is there is no indication that anything has changed. Burton says he is looking past this one incident; not that he realizes his place is to be a supporter not a decision maker.

The Shad is a Syracuse alumnus. In my years there and in years since then, I’ve never heard of a donor being placated to point where he would get a say in key decisions. This is related because the new coach that Burton didn’t like, Paul Pasqualoni, was very successful as the head coach at SU and reportedly was a major part of the problem Burton had with UConn—Burton’s son wasn’t named a captain when he played at SU. Which begs the question: Does anyone think Burton’s kid would have been a captain if his dad donated $3 million toward the Carrier Dome? Not likely.