The smaller problem: the women’s basketball team is losing freshman forward Samarie Walker. Walker was number 10 in her recruiting class–the number forward in the country coming out of high school (in Ohio).
But apparently there was discontent from the start.
Like Elena Delle Donne (though, yes slightly different, I know), Walker thought she didn’t just want to play basketball any more–or at least that is what she told people last fall. But also like Delle Donne, turns out she just doesn’t want to play for UConn allegedly because of the pressure and scrutiny. It seems that UConn was her mother’s dream. Walker is headed to Kentucky where she will be eligible to play in spring 2012. She has already made the move to Kentucky and is a matriculated student. She will be practicing with the team.
Obviously Auriemma has spoken about the situation as have some unnamed sources. But we’ll never really know what happened, in part because it likely remains pretty confusing for those involved, including Walker. It’s unfortunate that Walker seems to come off as a petulant teenager. I can’t imagine the pressure of having to play in such a spotlight when you’re basically just a kid, especially when the spotlight wasn’t one of your own choosing. This situation should not be put solely on the individual, or on UConn (you’re shocked, I know). What kind of industry has emerged here where tenth graders are deciding they just aren’t interested in basketball anymore even as they are receiving letters from DI schools? When parents are urging their kids to go to schools they might be comfortable at just because they are good basketball schools?
Moving on…a the larger problem arguably is that UConn could be looking under the cushions of all those dorm couches for some extra change–$3million worth. Major donor Richard Burton is asking for his money back–the money that went to building the on-campus facility where the football players train and play. It’s the one that bears his name–a (purchased) honor he no longer desires.
What could be causing all the strife? Burton’s input on the new football coach apparently was not given enough consideration. He apparently does like the choice of the former Syracuse coach, whom Burton’s own son played for years ago. (Is this some kind of high-powered revenge scheme/pissing contest?) Burton wrote a letter to UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway expressing his discontent and presenting his demands. But it’s not really common practice to let donors, well, take over the decision-making process after they have donated.
I guess we should be talking about petulant middle-aged white guys. In part of the letter (the entirety of which can be found here) Burton (who is the football program’s number one donor a fact he mentions at least four times) writes:
“Your lack of response on either of these requests [to discuss the search] tells me that you do not respect my point of view or value my opinion.”
Welcome to capitalism, Mr. Burton, where often respect lasts until the ink on the check dries. I am pretty sure it’s a system you have helped perpetuate and benefit immensely from.
Burton has sought legal counsel and has outlined his 8-point plan for taking money away from the football program.