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Ego and football

The seamier side of big-time college football emerged for the University of Connecticut in the form of an angry screed from Robert G. Burton, a major program donor, who is unhappy with how it's being run. In a six-page letter, first obtained by Day Assistant Sports Editor Mike DiMauro, Mr. Burton announced he is withdrawing all support and wants $3 million back.

The Greenwich millionaire and printing industry executive is way out of line. Contributors who make large donations to college athletics can designate how they want money utilized, but they don't get to dictate how the program is run — at least not officially. As for getting money back, we suspect all donations are final.

No question that Mr. Burton, chairman, CEO and managing member of Burton Capital Management LLC, has played a significant role in the success of UConn football since it moved up to Division 1. He has given more than $7 million, including $2.5 million toward construction of the football complex, an impressive facility that serves as a recruiting lure.

So peeved is Mr. Burton that he wants his name off the "Burton Family Football Complex." Mr. Burton is not happy with Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway, who he contends has done a poor job of cultivating large donors. He blames him for Coach Randy Edsall's departure, said he opposes the selection of Edsall's replacement, former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, and is upset that the university did not seek his advice.

As insufferable as this millionaire's tantrum may be, it is a reality that keeping major donors and their big egos satisfied, without crossing ethical lines, is the challenge of any major football program. Mr. DiMauro reports revenue from donors is down almost $9 million from five years ago.

Incoming President Susan Herbst faces an immediate challenge determining if Mr. Hathaway is up to the job and soothing hard feelings. That's repugnant, perhaps, but part of the game.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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