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Monday, November 24, 2014

Robert G. Burton, UConn Football’s Top Donor, Wants $3 Million Back

The UConn football program could be in serious trouble.  Former head coach Randy Edsall left the team after its Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma to accept the same position at Maryland, but all of a sudden that may not be the team’s most pressing issue.  UConn’s top football booster, Robert G. Burton, is planning to cut ties with the team after athletic director Jeff Hathaway failed to fulfill his request of remaining involved in the process of hiring a new head coach.

UConn recently hired former NFL defensive coordinator and Syracuse head football coach Paul Pasqualoni, a move that Burton does not support and says he was not consulted on in any way.  It was the Burton family’s “lead gift” of $2.5 million that allowed UConn to open one of the best football facilities in the country back in 2006.

After the hire was made, Burton wrote an extremely angry letter to Hathaway and the university in which he vowed to take back roughly $3 million of the money he has donated to the football program.  Here are some of the important pieces in the letter as shared with us by The Day.

The primary reason (former coach) Randy (Edsall) took another job is because he couldn’t work with you,” Burton wrote in the letter to Hathaway. “You are not qualified to be a Division I AD and I would have fired you a long time ago. You do not have the skills to manage and cultivate new donors.”

“I was not looking for veto power,” Burton wrote. “Your lack of response on either of these requests tells me that you do not respect my point of view or value my opinion.”

“After we get our money back, you can take our name off the complex,” wrote Burton, who also has a luxury box at Rentschler Field and who donated more than $1 million to endow two scholarships at the school.

In the letter, Burton highlighted eight actions that are to be taken immediately including all remaining scholarship dollars to be transferred to the business school, a cancellation of the family’s $20,000 per year donation which is used to run a summer football clinic, and a cancellation of the $8,000 advertisement space the family purchases annually for the inside cover of the game day program.

In summary, the UConn football program is in a tremendous amount of hot water if Burton follows through with his demands — and there’s no reason to believe he won’t.  If you think hiring staff is a task that should be left to the “football people,” you’re 100 percent right.  Unfortunately, money talks.  For the sake of the program’s future, it would have been wise of Hathaway to at least dangle a carrot in front of Burton instead of keeping him in the dark.



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