Robert Burton asks school to remove name from building, return $3 million

By Mac Cerullo, Sports Editor

Robert Burton in 1997 - AP

Another major bombshell has hit the UConn athletic department, and this one could be the most damaging at all. Robert Burton, the football program’s No. 1 donor and the namesake attached to the Burton Family Football Complex, has demanded that the school return $3 million and remove his name from the building. He plans to sever all ties to the University, according to the letter he wrote to athletic director Jeff Hathaway that was released today by the school.

The six-page letter can be read in it’s entirety here.

The reason for Burton’s anger stems from Hathaway’s failing to consult him during the coaching search, and his apparent dissatisfaction with the hiring of Paul Pasqualoni.

“You hired a coach that only knows CT coaches and players,” Burton said. “CT players alone will not put UConn’s program where we want it to be.”

Burton also said he was extremely dissatisfied with the way the coaching search was conducted, and that Hathaway never consulted his opinion during the course of the search. Burton referenced his son’s experience with Pasqualoni as a particular reason his input would have been useful, and that he felt that Hathaway’s failing to return his calls was a sign of disrespect and a “slap in the face.”

And the letter got uglier from there. Here are some of the lowlights.

“I believe that 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 or the ability to work with coaches.”

The primary reason Randy took another job was because he could not work with you. I assume it will not take your new president long to find out that you also have problems in your working relationships with the basketball coaches and other UConn managers. Randy even met with a senior board member to complain about his working relationship with you. I cannot count how many times Randy came down to my office to ask for funding on projects that you were not able to get done.

Don’t underestimate me or what I have outlined and requested in this document. I have already secured legal counsel from several law firms. If you are looking for a fight, then you have selected the right family. You have hurt and embarrassed the Burton family for the last time.

This situation underscores a situation that often goes unnoticed by the UConn student body, but has been simmering beneath the surface for some time now, and that is the fact that UConn’s donors aren’t happy.

Mike DiMauro of The Day of New London, who broke this story, wrote an excellent piece a few weeks ago that touched on this issue. Despite the rousing success of UConn athletics and the rise of the football program to national significance, the school’s donor list has shrunk in the past five years.

The downward trend started after the departure of Paul Pendergast in 2006. Pendergast was the senior associate AD for development, and his job was to work with boosters and get donations to help keep the athletic department afloat.

But as DiMauro writes, his position was never filled after he left. Since then, donors have dwindled, and now the program is about to lose the biggest donor of all.

Maybe that’s something Hathaway should address. I mean, it’s practical business sense that if you’re not good at something, hire someone who is to do it for you.

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