STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut's new president confirms she has initiated an evaluation of the school's athletic department, amid a report that she's trying to buy out the contract of athletic director Jeff Hathaway.
Susan Herbst, who became UConn's president in June, did not address a story by The Day of New London, which reported school and athletic department sources said she's working on a deal that would have Hathaway leave UConn in the next several weeks.
Herbst said the school is evaluating issues including academic performance, NCAA compliance and fundraising.
"We will be excellent stewards of public and private funds in all areas of the university," she said in her statement. "As a result, I will be reviewing all divisions of the university over time, but with great urgency, to make sure that we are serving this state in the best possible way. Accountability and excellence are our themes, going forward. The Division of Athletics is one of those areas of the university in which we have already begun this evaluation process."
Hathaway has overseen a period of unparalleled success among UConn's sports teams, highlighted in 2004 when the school's men's and women's basketball teams both won national championships. This past academic year, the men's team won its third NCAA title, the women's basketball team reached the Final Four, the Huskies football team earned a Fiesta Bowl bid and its baseball team made it to an NCAA super regional.
But he has come under fire recently after a series of problems within the athletic department including sanctions against the basketball team for NCAA violations, declining academic scores among male basketball players and a drop-off in donations.
In January, football booster Robert Burton demanded the school return $3 million and take his name off UConn's football complex because he felt he had not been properly consulted before Hathaway hired Paul Pasqualoni as the school's new head coach. Burton rescinded his demand after a meeting with UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh.
The Journal Inquirer of Manchester reported last week that more than 20 members of the athletic department and alumni had been interviewed by an outside firm hired to look into the performance of Hathaway's office.
Hathaway did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment Monday.
Hathaway, who has an icy relationship with Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, is scheduled to take over as chairman of the NCAA's powerful Division I basketball committee this coming season.
He became athletic director in 2003. He has a roll-over contract with an annual base salary of $351,717. Under the terms of the deal, the contract is renewed automatically each year if Hathaway has not been informed by Feb. 1 that the contract is not to be extended.
The school's review is expected to be completed in the next month.