Paul Pasqualoni Hire as UConn Football Coach Sparks Dispute: When Donors Attack

Del KerbyContributor IJanuary 27, 2011

Paul Pasqualoni
Paul PasqualoniDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

"I want my money back" is basically what donor Robert Burton said to University of Connecticut officials after they selected Paul Pasqualoni as their new head football coach.

Maybe it was more like, "I didn't get my money's worth, so please give me back my three million dollars."

Or, "It's my football, so I'm leaving and taking it with me because I didn't get a say in hiring Pasqualoni."

Okay, I know that boosters are a main source of cash inflow to college sports and that they are often briefed when the major sports programs do a coaching search.

Burton's money was spent to build the Burton Football Complex at UConn. Now he's upset because AD Jeff Hathaway didn't come to him personally and consult with him. He now thinks that the athletic director isn't fit for the job and was the reason former head coach Randy Edsall left.

Wow, talk about an ego. Last time I saw an ego like that, the name attached was Al Davis of the Raiders, or maybe it was Jerry Jones. Nope, more like Dan Snyder of the Redskins.

I mean, this guy must think he's the owner of the Huskies team with statements like this:

"I know more football coaches than the majority of Athletic Directors in America. ... I am fully qualified to assess coaches and their ability to match up with the university's needs."

He also said:

"I just wanted to be kept in the loop and add value and comments on any prospective candidates. This is the same process that [former AD] Lew Perkins had with me when Randy Edsall was hired in December of 1998. You did not call me and ask for information on Pasqualoni or talk to my son, Joe, who started as an offensive lineman at Syracuse from 1997-2001. Instead you listened to others."

Another thing: Why would the university need or want to talk to Joe Burton? Are they going to talk to every former player that was coached by Pasqualoni? The answer is obviously a resounding no.

Here's a guy who played for Murray State back in 1962 and was drafted by the 49ers in the 19th round. Remember those days, when the NFL drafted just about every college player, all the way down to the guy at the end of the bench?

According to Mr. Burton, these are reasons he is eminently qualified to have a major say in determining who the university should have hired. 

But wait—what about the other donor who matched Mr. Burton's "gift" to the university, Mr. Mark Shenkman, a UConn alumnus, which Mr. Burton is not?

He's apparently happy with Paul Pasqualoni as head coach, or maybe he realizes it's not his place to have a say in who the university hires to run the football program.

Paul Pasqualoni has great credentials and is a quality football coach, so it is difficult to understand why Mr. Burton has such angst with his hiring.

Now, the University of Connecticut Foundation needs to evaluate whether or not they'll comply with Mr. Burton's demands. When asked, the foundation's communications director, Arthur Sorrentino, said that he was not aware of any situation where a donor had asked his gift be returned.

Sure, money buys you access, but it doesn't buy you control. Mr. Burton needs to remember that he gave a "gift" to the university, not a loan needing to be repaid. 

Personally, I think the university should tell Mr. Robert G. Burton, "Don't go away mad—just go away."