Major UConn Football Donor Pulls Support in Scathing Letter

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) – A major University of Connecticut donor has written a seething letter to the institution after a disagreement over the hiring of a new football coach.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reports Robert Burton, who over the years has donated $7 million to the football program, complained in a letter to UConn Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway that he was shut out of the hiring process.

WCBS 880 Reporter Fran Schneidau finds out what made Robert Burton so upset.

What do you think? Should a donor demand to be kept “in the loop” on hirings? Comment below!

Burton, who heads the Greenwich-based Burton Capital Management, wrote that he wasn’t looking for veto power, he simply wanted to be kept in the loop and that he “earned my voice on this subject” as the program’s top donor.

LINK: Read Burton’s Scathing Letter

In the January 19th letter, Burton wrote that since the new coach was hired without his input, he is compelled to sever ties with UConn and that includes removing the Burton name from the football complex. Burton also wants the university to return $3 million he donated to build the complex.

Burton called the situation “a slap in the face and embarrassment to my family,” and said he planned “to let the correct people know that you did not listen to your number one football donor. He called the search process flawed and he did not support the way Paul Pasqualoni was selected as coach.

“We want our money and respect back,” Burton wrote to Hathaway.

Burton, who played college football at Murray State, said he has hired lawyers to enforce his demand to get his donations back.

The Day newspaper of New London first reported news of the letter Tuesday and the response from UConn, which has not said whether it will return the donations or remove the name from the Burton Family Football Complex.

In a written statement on behalf of UConn and Hathaway, the athletic department said that Burton was among many interested people who offered input, and that Hathaway “did receive and acknowledge” Burton’s advice before Pasqualoni was hired.

“In the end, the decision was appropriately made by the university in the best interests of UConn and our football program,” the statement said.

“The Burton family has been exceptionally supportive of the University of Connecticut for many years. The university is grateful to the family, especially for the benefits they have provided to many of our students.”

Burton and UConn trustees chairman Lawrence McHugh did not immediately return messages Tuesday.

Burton had marked his Jan. 19 letter as “personal and confidential,” but the newspaper obtained it Monday and the university released it Tuesday under state Freedom of Information open-records laws after media requests.

UConn granted Burton an honorary doctorate degree in 2000. He didn’t say in his letter whether he plans to relinquish it.

Burton, a printing industry executive, and his family have given more than $7 million in donations for scholarships and other programs, including $2.5 million in 2002 to kick off construction of the football complex.

That’s over, according to Burton’s letter. And, he blames the athletic director, saying he is “fed up” with Hathaway and would have fired him long ago, if he’d had the authority.

Burton says his family and friends will no longer donate for scholarships and coaching clinics, will pull their advertising from the football program and will transfer current scholarships away from football and into the business school.

It couldn’t immediately be determined Tuesday how many football players that would affect and whether other scholarship money would be available.

Burton said his company will also start sending its managers to Syracuse University’s business school for training instead of UConn, and will no longer pay for its $50,000-per-year luxury suite at Rentschler Field.

“You already have many other empty boxes at Rentschler. My box will just join the list,” Burton wrote.

Burton was selected in the 19th round of the 1962 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He later signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills.

His son, Joe, played for Paul Pasqualoni at Syracuse from 1997 to 2001 and another son, Michael, played at UConn for former coach Randy Edsall in 1999.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • ScottyB

    It is the university’s fault in this situation, and please hear me out. When you have a donor giving MILLIONS of dollars to your football program (or school for that matter), it is your responsibility as UCONN to understand the implications of accepting the money, In a perfect world people give money with no strings attached, but this is the reality EVERYWHERE, people who give that much money want power within the program. When you accept someone’s money, you better be fully aware of what they expect, OR write it all down in a signed contact what the terms are. BAD management by UCONN, whether Burton is right or wrong, BAD management.

  • D3

    If he didn’t want veto power then what was he looking for? Does this make sense to anyone?

    This guy comes off as very insecure and high maintenance. If UConn should send this guy packing, with or without his money, who cares? Is the Biz school going to let him pick the Dean going forward? Am I alone in finding it disturbing that any amount of money could derail the integrity of a school like that? BMOC wannabe… sad. Grow up dude!

  • RGJ

    Was his donation to the school contingent on any written agreement with the school. this is the critical question. If this was not the case I cannot see how he could legally demand and receive a GIFT (and that is what it was….agift)

  • The Good Samaritan

    Clearly Burton is an indian giver.

    The Good Samaritan has spoken.

    • bush

      let’s be politically correct … that would be “native american” giver

  • Donald N. Mei

    I have never seen a better reason for colleges to get the hell out of the big time football merry-go-round. The purpose of the University of Connecticut is to provide quality education for its students, not to run a football factory. The sooner the governor, other politicians and so called fans realize this, the sooner we can get back to the business of education and out of the entertainment business.

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