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QBREES9 01-26-2011 11:03 PM

UConn: No plans to cut ties with unhappy $7M donor
UConn: No plans to cut ties with unhappy $7M donor

University of Connecticut officials have no plans to cut ties with a major donor who has demanded the return of $3 million because he felt he was not adequately consulted in the hiring of a new football coach.

Interim UConn President Philip Austin and Board of Trustees Chairman Lawrence McHugh told the Hartford Courant that they had phone conversations with the donor, Robert Burton, on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters before a board meeting Wednesday, McHugh said he hopes the school's relationship with Burton, who has given more than $7 million to the school, will continue.

"We're going to try to move forward," he said. "I'm definitely going to have further conversations to reinforce the support the Burtons have given the university in the past. Hopefully, over one issue, everything isn't destroyed."

Burton, chief executive officer of Greenwich, Conn.-based Burton Capital Management, had apparently counseled against hiring Paul Pasqualoni as coach. In his Jan. 19 letter to UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway, he said his opinions were ignored and he was not kept informed of the search process. He also demanded that his family's name be removed from the school's football training complex.

Burton, whose son Joe played for Pasqualoni at Syracuse from 1997 to 2001, called the situation "a slap in the face and embarrassment to my family."

He said he planned "to let the correct people know that you did not listen to your number one football donor.

"We want our money and respect back," Burton wrote to Hathaway.

Burton, who played college football at Murray State, said although he was not seeking veto power in the hiring, he "earned my voice on this subject" as the program's top donor. He said he has hired lawyers to enforce his demand to get his donations back.

Austin expressed support for Hathaway and how he handled the hiring of Pasqualoni.

"The search for a very high-visibility position is always complex and people have very strong points of view," Austin said. "I'm comfortable with the process as it unfolded."

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