Matt Necci has been a UConn fan for pretty much his entire life. The men’s basketball team caught his eye in the late 1980s and he was still a young sprout during the Dream Season in 1990.
“I experienced the highs of the Tate George shot and Ray Allen winning the Big East title,” Necci said. “The lows of losing to Duke, UCLA and UNC in the Elite Eight, and the absolute joy and madness of winning in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014.”
After growing up as a fan, Necci became a part of the university in the fall of 1999 when he came in as a freshman. He was an early member of the Goal Patrol, UConn soccer’s student section that has since become one of the best in the country.
He graduated in 2003 with degrees in history and journalism. While his days as a student at UConn were over, Necci had aspirations for something much bigger at the school: Being a member of the Board of Trustees. Now, he’s close to making that dream a reality.
In May, Necci announced that he was running for the Board of Trustees Alumni Position, a spot on the board voted on by alumni. Since then, he’s been running the #NecciForUConn campaign to encourage fellow alumni to vote for him.
“Joining the board was always a goal for me during my career,” he said. “I've loved the University since I was young and I've continued to stay engaged both in the academic forum and with athletics since I left.
“When someone asked me if I would be interested in being nominated, I jumped at the opportunity.”
He believes that the qualifications make him the perfect person to join the board.
“Having a mid-level professional that is engaged with the University, the city, and young professionals throughout the state is something that the Board of Trustees does not currently have,” he said. “I believe my experiences in the Greater Hartford area over the last decade make me the ideal candidate right now.”
As someone who works in the capital city, Necci is a staunch supporter of anything that will help revitalize Hartford, including Riverfront Recapture, UConn’s downtown Hartford campus and the Hartford Yard Goats.
“Hartford can be a central hub to attract and engage all of these people” he said. “There are many skeptics with respect to Hartford, and that is understandable. But it's also a city that has a lot of energy right now.
“For too long people have considered Hartford to be the little brother of two large cities to our East or West (Boston and New York), instead of viewing our location as an asset.”
Necci believes a thriving city goes hand-in-hand with continuing to build UConn’s prosperity in the 21st century.
“There are tens of thousands of UConn alumni in the Greater Hartford area. These people attend athletic events, they visit and attend our campuses, and they vote for our elected officials,” he said. “There is a tremendous young professional community that is driving things, and there are opportunities for UConn graduates to make a mark on their state in a huge way. That begins in Hartford.
“Storrs will always be great and will always be the center of the University, but we need to extend the heart of UConn from Storrs to Hartford. I am as big a supporter of the #UConn6thBorough movement as anyone, but Hartford is home. We need to invest there.”
While UConn has made big strides over the past three decades, Necci believes it can continue to improve and grow to become one of the nation’s elite public universities.
“UConn has been a top 20 public university for some time now. It is a phenomenal ranking and something we should all be proud of,” Necci said. “However, the next goal should be Top 10 public university, which I believe is feasible in ten years with continued investment.”
Connecticut has been struggling in recent years, with corporations and people leaving the state at an alarming rate. The key to reversing that trend, according to Necci, is investing in the state’s flagship university.
“UConn is an international marketing machine for Connecticut,” Necci said. “The combination of athletics with public ivy education is not something that most schools or states can provide. We should be clear that UConn cannot be viewed as just another state agency. It should be invested in regularly at the highest possible levels.”
While the state investments helps, that can only go so far. Necci affirms that the best way for the university to advance comes from within, specifically UConn’s athletics program.
“UConn's academic success over the last three decades is directly tied to the success the Athletics Department has had, particularly since 1990,” he said. “The success of our athletic programs lead to higher applications, which leads to better admissions. It also leads to private investment from our donors, and increased support in the legislature, which is required to ensure adequate investment in the University in the decades to come.”
Athletics are the main way Necci has given back to the school since he’s graduated as he’s a season ticket holder for the football, men’s basketball, men’s hockey and women’s soccer teams. Sports have also introduced his children to the university, giving them a potential interest in becoming students later on in life.
“UConn is what we do as a family, and my wife and I are constantly taking our kids to games,” Necci said. “Both my kids can do the U!C!O!N!N! cheer and sing most of the fight song, so I feel like I'm a relatively successful parent.”
While football, basketball and hockey are the three biggest sports at UConn, women’s soccer is more of a niche sport. However, it is arguably the most important one to the Necci family.
“My daughters love the sport and they watch a lot of male athletes at UConn football, basketball and hockey games,” he said. “Having female role models that are excelling at the sport they love made the most sense for our family.”
“The younger one does love hockey though,” he added.
If Necci were to be elected, it would be the biggest honor of his life.
“This has always been the ultimate goal. I have never known when this opportunity was going to come,” he said. “This is a position where you are either appointed by the governor or you are elected by your peers. This election and the opportunity to serve UConn in this capacity was not something I could pass on.”
And if you think he’s only doing this for himself, think again.
“This position is not something you use to build a resume. The UConn Board of Trustee is something you build your resume for.”
To vote for Matt Necci, check his name on the ballots sent out last week, sign your name, stamp and mail it back to the university. Ballots must be received by August 14 to count so return them as soon as you vote. You can find Matt on Twitter and Facebook.