The state of Connecticut is attempting to make major cuts to the University of Connecticut’s state funding, and women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma is not having it.
Auriemma, who is due to make $2 million next year, launched an impassioned defense of the university and the progress it has made since his arrival amid a proposed budget that would slash the school’s operating budget by $300 million.
“Some things you can’t quantify its worth,” Auriemma said, via Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant. “I do know what it is worth to people living in Connecticut trying to run a business who want kids to stay here after they graduate. UConn graduates come out as a skilled workforce. Yet every time you pick up the paper another company is leaving the state.
“This doesn’t mean [UConn] shouldn’t be free from cuts. That’s unrealistic. We also don’t have the massive endowments of University of Texas and Michigan. I’m just saying one of the first places people always look on a budget crisis is cutting education. Grade school. College. Bloated budgets! We’re wasting money. That may be true in some cases. Even one of the legislators said, ‘A lot of people up at UConn are getting paid a lot of money.’ Like that’s a mortal sin.”
In response to that, Auriemma offered to work for free if it would help preserve other educational or athletic programs at the school.
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll work for free next year,” Auriemma said. “I’ll give up what the state pays me, what the taxpayers are paying me, but guess what? I pay my taxes and I don’t care how much money it costs for me to have good schools where I live in Manchester. My [adult] kids don’t go to school there. I can afford it. I want to be proud of our town’s education system. Why is it that older people turn their back on education when somebody paid for their kids when they were in school? We’ve lost sight of what we have to do for other people.”
Auriemma is a brash and outspoken defender of UConn. Saying it and doing it are two entirely different things, but he certainly sounds serious.