Commentary

UConn booster's lost letters

Originally Published: January 27, 2011
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

You go, Robert G. Burton Sr.! For too long, men such as yourself have been thrust aside by well-meaning "educators" and "coaching professionals" who have no idea how to win a football game or raise millions of dollars.

Not you, Robert G. Burton Sr.! You took a stand. You drew a line. Just because UConn's Jeff Hathaway is the "athletic director," he thinks it's his job to direct athletics. Wrong! That's your job! You have the money. You have the expertise. After all, you played football 50 years ago. You know a lot of coaches. Say no more.

Please, we're begging you -- say no more.

Just kidding, Robert G. Burton Sr.! Without men like you, hiring coaches would be left to the universities where they work. Can we have that? No, we cannot. We need men who understand that coming from the coal mines of West Virginia to the hedge funds of Connecticut is qualification to hire a football coach. We need bootstrap guys who understand not only what they're qualified to do but what other people are qualified to do.

That's you, Robert G. Burton Sr.! You are the early leader for the 2011 E. Gordon Gee Award, named for the Ohio State president who provided his analysis of the football landscape last fall. Just as they say that Gee overstepped his expertise when he described TCU and Boise State as building their records by playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, they are saying you overstepped your bounds too.

They are wrong, Robert G. Burton Sr.! If only they knew what you and I know. You have been a big-time, big-money booster for some of the greatest coaches and players that college football has ever known. And here's the sad part: One after another, all of them have disappointed you.

All of them, Robert G. Burton Sr.! Every one of them has failed to consult you at a crossroads in his career. That six-page letter you wrote to Hathaway this month? You've written its kind before.


Nov. 15, 1928
Dear Coach Rockne,

After all I have done for Notre Dame, I cannot believe that you asked the team to "Win One for the Gipper" last week without running it by me first. I have encouraged a lot of players to win a lot of games over the years. My three sons all have heard pep talks in college locker rooms. I cannot believe that you would not listen to one of your top donors on this subject. I am sure you can take a collection from your halftime-speech committee and friends to offset the loss of future donations from the Burton family.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Burton Sr.


Nov. 15, 1973
Dear Coach Bryant,

After all I have done for Alabama, I cannot believe that you would select a houndstooth hat to wear on the sideline without asking me for suggestions first. I have worn a lot of hats over the years -- fedoras, porkpies, bowlers. Based on my family's demonstrated commitment to the program, I would think that your hat selection committee would want to listen to me, or at least meet or do a conference call to hear what I have to say.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Burton Sr.


Dec. 26, 2009
Dear Coach Meyer,

After all I have done for Florida, I cannot believe that you would choose to retire for health reasons without running it by me first. If you insist on no longer coaching at Florida, I must insist on no longer donating money. I have already secured legal counsel from several law firms. If you are looking for a legal fight, you have selected the right family. You have hurt and embarrassed the Burton family for the last time.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Burton Sr.


Dec. 27, 2009
Dear Coach Meyer,

After all I have done for Florida, I cannot believe that you would choose to return to coach the Gators without running it by me first. If you insist on continuing to coach at Florida, I must insist on no longer donating money. I have already secured legal counsel from several law firms. If you are looking for a legal fight, you have selected the right family. You have hurt and embarrassed the Burton family for the last time.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Burton Sr.


Feb. 5, 2010
Dear Rev. Newton,

After all I have done for Mississippi State, I cannot believe that you asked the university for $180,000 to deliver your son to our school without asking me for it first. I have given $7,000,000 to the athletic department in the form of endowments, skybox leases and several thousand cowbells. After this slap in the face and embarrassment to my family, we are so upset that we are out of giving you anything. I have no trust or faith that these funds will be managed properly.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Burton Sr.


Jan. 10, 2011
Dear Andrew Luck,

When I called you on Tuesday, Jan. 4, I made two things very clear to you, as the largest donor in the Stanford football program. I cannot believe you would choose to pursue your undergraduate degree without running it by me first. I do not feel as though this request was asking for too much. Your lack of response tells me that you do not respect my point of view or value my opinion. When the press contacts me, I plan to tell them the truth and the entire story about how you did not even give the football team's largest donor the opportunity to provide any input about how you live your life.

Sincerely,
Robert G. Burton Sr.


You keep plugging, Robert G. Burton Sr.! Someday, you will find a conference that appreciates your knowledge. You will find a league in which you can deploy all of your leadership without interference. I am here to help. I am here to provide you with the name of that league. It is the National Football League. You go, Robert G. Burton Sr.!

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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