In a Final Four where not one but two mid-major teams crashed the party, I figured the national media could find more to focus on than the similarities in nickname between the two combatants in the title game. But I was horribly wrong.
You see, Connecticut’s mascot is a Husky, and that’s a dog. And Butler’s mascot is a Bulldog, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s a dog as well. So how CUH-RAAAAAZY is it that a couple of teams with dog nicknames would get to the title game? Jim Nantz thought it was pretty nuts:
Nantz had an arsenal of those loaded up in his University of Houston educated brain, just in case UConn decided to play another six overtime postseason game. Here are the canine puns he didn’t have time to get to:
“Call him Dr. Calhoun the veterinarian, because he just spayed Butler’s players and neutered their cheerleaders. UConn wins the title!”
“Matt Howard needs to quit daydreaming about licking his balls and concentrate on his shot a little more.”
“This shooting is atrocious, Michael Vick would’ve put down both these teams ten minutes ago.”
“Brad Stevens looks frustrated on the Butler bench. I haven’t seen a guy have a harder time with dogs since Charles Grodin in the ‘Beethoven’ movies.”
“Speaking of dogs, this wasn’t the most scenic of Final Fours behind the baskets, if you catch my drift. Wouldn’t have minded Florida State making it and bringing their cheerleaders, those are some good looking Pomeranians.”
Nantz will now shelve his dog references because next up for him is a trip to Augusta to call the Masters. It’ll be nothing but hushed, reverential tones as he tells us over and over and over just how beautiful Augusta National is. Too bad, because some of his Final Four material might come in handy when referencing that dogleg right on the 18th.
The interactions of big money boosters and the college athletic departments they throw cash at are shrouded in the type of secrecy usually reserved for the CIA. While we know which guys are giving money to which colleges, most of us are blissfully unaware of the kind of influence the booster gains as a result.
For example, has everyone in the Oregon athletic department taken a blood oath to do the bidding of Phil Knight? Could T. Boone Pickens make anyone in a leadership position at Oklahoma State drop to all fours and bark like a dog on his command? Who knows, but if the answer to those questions is in fact a resounding, “Yes!,” it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
I’m a cynical son of a bitch, if you haven’t noticed. And I for one don’t think that any mega-booster gives to a school’s athletic department simply because he’s a huge fan. When rich people are generous, it’s usually not as simple as a wave of magnanimity having prompted them to part with their cash. On the contrary, they almost always want something in return somewhere down the road.
Which leads me to Robert Burton, the Chairman and CEO of Burton Capital Management and devoted UConn booster. Well, I should say FORMERLY devoted UConn booster, because after the school hired Paul Pasqualoni to coach its football team, Burton blew a gasket. Here’s the letter he sent to UConn AD Jeff Hathaway after said gasket was blown:
Wow, where do I start with this? That shroud of secrecy I referred to gets lifted a little bit here, and it’s GLORIUS. Let’s go through the various Bob Burtons who emerged during the course of the letter:
“To be crystal clear, I was not looking for veto power over the next hire; I just wanted to be kept in the loop and add value and comments on any prospective candidates.”
“I was a GA in Graduate School and worked on my PhD in Tennessee and Alabama. I was also a scout for the Minnesota Vikings while in grad school. I am fully qualfied to assess coaches and their ability to match up with the university’s needs…”
This is the Bob whose money had bought him great access to the school’s previous AD, Lew Perkins. You know Lew, he’s the guy who moved on to Kansas and oversaw an athletic department there that became embroiled in a ticket scalping scandal. Just this week, Sweet Lew was fined $4,000 in an ethics case for improperly accepting gifts.
Burton got that kind of access because back in the 90’s, Sweet Lou needed a ton of cash to upgrade UConn’s athletic facilities. In stepped Helpful Bob and his checkbook. And I’m sure Burton provided a great deal of quality input on the school’s search for a football coach back in 1998, you know, seeing as how the guy has such an intricate knowledge of football’s x’s and o’s.
Get real, Bob. Sweet Lew needed your money, not your opinion. He only asked for it to blow sunshine up your ass in order to get MORE of your cash.
“I am fed with you as a manager because you did not let the hiring process take place in an open manner.”
This is the Bob who has had it up to HERE with Hathaway, who in his eyes is just some civil servant making a measly six figure salary. The nerve of Hathaway for doing his job and not reaching out to Helpful Bob. And when Helpful Bob gets jilted, Outraged Bob comes out to play.
LOOK AT ALL I’VE DONE FOR YOU BOB
“During the past two days, I compiled a list of all the money that we have given UConn going back to the day Mike started school and came up with a total of over $7 million, including Lew Perkin’s air transportation to find Randy Edsall and the money I paid to get Murray State to play UConn here in Connecticut.”
This is the Bob who is convinced that a school sitting in the state of Connecticut couldn’t have gotten other rich windbags to cough up their money. Oh, just for the record, Connecticut has the third highest per capita income in the country, in case the sarcasm in the previous sentence got by you.
TAKING MY BALL AND GOING HOME BOB
“As soon as you find a new donor, I want you to return the $3 million I gave you for the Burton Family Football Complex, as well as the additional funds I gave Randy and the football department for pictures and other art and the new audio system in the weight room. We plan to donate these funds to another university that supports our objectives and goals. After we get our money back, you can take our name off the complex.”
Here’s the Bob who’s not only stopped being generous, but he now wants back the gifts he gave you. He wants you to put them in their original boxes, re-wrap them and send them to his place. Then he can re-gift them to someone who supports his objectives and goals, foremost among those being to do Bob Burton’s bidding AT ALL TIMES. Apparently, Taking My Ball And Going Home Bob believes that place will be Syracuse.
“When the press contacts me, I plan to tell them the truth and the entire story about how your lack of support was the primary reason Randy departed from UConn and how you did not even give the football team’s largest donor the opportunity to provide any input about the head coaching job.”
This is most cutthroat of all the Bobs, this is the Bob who makes tons of cash by always looking to increase “shareholder value,” as his bio on the Cenveo web site says. Never heard of Cenveo? That’s a print company that Burton bulled his way into leading via a proxy fight back in 2005.
Put all these Bobs together and what do you have? A-hole Bob.
Look, I’m not about to imply that the hiring of Paul Pasqualoni was a brilliant move by Hathaway and UConn. Hell, there are probably a ton of Husky fans as underwhelmed by this as Burton. That’s because in terms of sexiness factor, it probably rates somewhere similar to a friggin’ Jim Donnan hiring. And yes, Pasqualoni could very well steer the Husky ship into an iceberg, taking both him and Hathaway into the icy depths.
But I know one thing about Hathaway in regard to this hiring: he was more than aware it would raise the ire of Burton. How could he not have been? Burton strikes me as the kind of guy who called the UConn athletic department twice a day to offer up his opinion on everything. Still, Hathaway went ahead and pulled the trigger.
That makes me wonder if Burton is somehow an even bigger a-hole than the letter above shows that he is. If that’s the case, that explains why the powers that be at UConn are so willing to part with his money.
UConn’s Randy Edsall could have seen his status as a coach-in-waiting for some powerhouse school take a huge hit this season. That’s because his UConn team has been, well, sorta not all that great.
The Huskies have lost every single road game they’ve played and currently sit at 5-4. Against a Michigan team that gave up 37 points to UMass and 65 more to Illinois, Edsall’s squad could only muster up a touchdown and a field goal.
But the dip into mediocrity for UConn has been eclipsed by the fact that his whole damn league has done the same thing. It’s November friggin’ 12 and there still isn’t a bowl eligible team in the Big East. Process that last sentence one more time.
So under the current circumstances, getting a win over a painfully average Pitt team last night made Edsall dance like his Huskies had just moved to 9-0:
When the whole league goes to shit, including his own team, does this mean Edsall is still on top of everyone’s wish list? Well, he doesn’t appear to be on the short list to fill the vacancy at Colorado, where the delusional powers that be apparently think that Jon Gruden is interested in taking that gig. I’ll believe that when I see it.
Then again, even though the Big East stinks this season and Colorado is moving to the Pac-10, I’m of the belief that a guy going from Storrs to Boulder right now would be at best a lateral move. That says a lot about what Edsall has done for the UConn program, but just as much about how far Colorado has fallen.