Big Trouble in Little Storrs

Fresh off the latest example that the BCS doesn’t work — and Auburn should appreciate that as much as anyone, considering it’s been in the same boat as TCU — comes another example of how, when college football muckety-mucks say everything’s fine within the sport, that they’re full of it.

University of Connecticut donor Robert Burton doesn’t like the Huskies’ new choice for head coach, so he wants his money and name back from the school. Burton made a $3 million donation a few years ago for UConn’s new football complex — you know, the Burton Family Football Complex.

UConns Burton Family Football Complex

One wonders what recourse Mr. Burton feels he has with his name having been on the building for half a decade, and whether he thinks the school will just zip off a check and get maintenance out there with a pair of pliers or something. He says he had a right to be consulted on the hiring and wasn’t, while the school says he was kept in the loop and knew what was coming.

According to the story, his choice for coach was former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Apparently it didn’t matter to Burton that Addazio had just been hired to become Temple’s new coach; UConn should have stolen him out from under the Owls. Maybe he figures that the Owls were booted from the Big East, and thus the Huskies got first dibs.

New UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni

Even more intriguing is that the coach UConn AD Jeff Hathaway and company did hire, ex-Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, coached Burton’s son with the Orange ands apparently the coach and dad didn’t exactly get along.

But the biggest question remains: Can Burton actually get a refund on his donation? And if so, what does this mean for the future of college football?

If the school doesn’t cough up the $3 million — only $2.5 million of which was for the naming rights of the complex, by the way; what a bargain! — does Burton then look for another route, including lawsuit, to get the money back? Then a court could be deciding for colleges just how much input in decisions cash like that buys a donor.

A loss for UConn could put a real damper on colleges seeking donations from any eager fan and lead to possibly a screening process in which schools try to find out just how pushy a donor might become when it comes to his or her beloved team.

In the case of UConn, which isn’t exactly Alabama or Florida or Texas, donors like Burton are probably much fewer and further between. Losing a donor of his stature could hurt the program far more than it would in a more established program with a deeper pool of big-walleted fans.

But will it lead to any fundamental changes in the way college football does business? If the repeated proof of the failure of the BCS doesn’t give the powers that be any incentive to change that system, why would this cause them to rethink things any more? Because it’s even more fundamentally about money, and the health and future of the sport.

But the NCAA isn’t known for doing the best things for the sport, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.


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