There are exactly four constituent groups that an athletic director needs to appease to keep his job. They are, in increasing order of importance: the fans, the coaches, the press and the donors. As of this morning, UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway is 0-4.
Let's start with the fans. Since you're reading this site there is probably a pretty good chance you're a UConn fan. You know what that tells me? It tells me that you aren't pro-Hathaway. Why? Because UConn fans fall into two categories: those that are frustrated with Hathaway and those that don't follow UConn closely enough to know they should be frustrated with Hathaway. Tell me, how do you feel about the atmosphere at UConn games? Or UConn's management of tradition? What about the basketball schedule and the continued existence of the XL center? Or the way ticket sales are managed? Let's put it this way: is there a single thing that you like about UConn athletics that can't be attributed to the head coach of a team you follow? No? I didn't think so.
What about the coaches though? Surely good feelings toward them can be transferred to the athletic department, right? Well no, because if you follow the school closely you've certainly heard whisper after murmur after rumor that when the coaches aren't feuding with one another, they're frustrated with the AD and ignoring him out for months at a time. That was all rumor though, at least until Randy Edsall left and sentences like this started to appear in the state's biggest newspaper:
Yet the smoldering notion that attracting football players was becoming a problem because the school wanted to admit better students and because athletic director Jeff Hathaway wouldn't back him in this fight … well, that is something that can suck the blood from recruiting long after Edsall is gone.
UConn's insistence on academic success is not a problem -- in fact it might be the one thing Hathaway should be praised for (at least with the football team) -- but reports that Hathaway would not even go to meetings with Randy Edsall to discuss admissions issues are terrible sign. If sitting down with the coaches to work through a problem isn't Hathaway's job, what is?
Then of course, you have the press, which hasn't been openly calling for Hathaway's job, but has not exactly given him a ringing endorsement either. This story, published by Mike DiMauro two weeks ago, did everything but blast Hathaway by name, and that's just not something you see when your closest observers -- the beat reporters -- think things are going well. Oh, and don't forget that the news of Paul Pasqualoni was broken not by a Connecticut paper, but by the Boston Globe. If you're trying to keep the press on your side, letting the biggest story of the year go out of state is a bad way to do it.
Let's get back to that DiMauro story though, because it focuses on UConn's biggest problem that, until this morning, was flying under the radar: donors are not happy. This morning DiMauro was back, this time with what will almost certainly be the biggest UConn story of the year: Robert Burton (yes, that Robert Burton), has asked the school to return almost $3 million in donations and to take his family's name off of the Burton Family Football Complex. The request came in a six-page letter sent to Hathaway that complained of philosophical differences with the AD and his management style. Here's the money quote:
"The primary reason (former coach) Randy (Edsall) took another job is because he couldn't work with you," Burton wrote in the letter to Hathaway. "You are not qualified to be a Division I AD and I would have fired you a long time ago. You do not have the skills to manage and cultivate new donors."
That is not good, especially if you're Jeff Hathaway.
I do not disagree with Burton either. Hathaway inherited a lot from Lew Perkins (who, while far from perfect, did a massive amount to build UConn into what it is today), especially three coaches (two of whom are in the Hall of Fame) who did nothing but win. And what have we seen from the Hathaway era? A cars-for-tickets scandal, declining season ticket sales, increasing fan dissatisfaction, an NCAA investigation that revealed both violations and a terribly understaffed compliance office, a basketball practice facility that is no where close to being built, a coach who left while explicitly blasting the AD's office and now the key donor asking for his money to be returned. Add it all up and it doesn't look good. Not at all.