The Day – It’s time for UConn athletics to accept responsibility for their financial mess

The University of Connecticut released an official statement last week after Kevin Ollie’s $11 million win, using the word ‘absurd’ to smear the decision of Mark Irvings, a referee who has done an outstanding job for the Major. League Baseball, Yale University, Electric Boat and Frito. -Lay in his nearly 50-year career.

The “absurd” part here is that it’s taken this long to ask the question: when will UConn athletics accept responsibility for the directionless leadership that has resulted in a fiscal quagmire – exacerbated by the 11 $157,032.95 that Ollie should receive within 10 business days?

There are issues of financial mismanagement in the athletic department for which there must be culpability, evidenced by the settlement of Ollie, the restoration of women’s rowing after UConn was found in breach of title IX and a soaring budget deficit of over $40 million.

Directly: UConn is awash with a lack of institutional strategy resulting from dizzying levels of incompetence and the dismal failure of the board to fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities.

And so, when do UConn officials really explain themselves? Or is the media in this state so beholden to UConn for content now that asking such questions could lead to less access, less information and not worth the risk/reward?

Here’s what I know: sporting director David Benedict is the one constant among weaknesses. He’s waist deep in Ollie’s mess, Title IX failures, and budget debacle.

It’s time for him or someone above him to give some answers.

I suspect Benedict kept his job because senior executives tend to survive in places with high turnover, like UConn and its recent line of interim presidents. It is always the decision of the next president.

Benedict is something of a social media darling among UConn loyalists, the patron saint of the Huskies’ return to the Big East — a move, apparently, seen as deodorant in Huskyville. The Big East solves everything.

But we’ve now learned that social media has facilitated the war on truth, providing a forum for the deceived to distort the facts – in this case, how Benedict manages to keep his job after every decision on his part seems to cost the world dearly. university more money.

Or is Benoît simply the victim of terrible legal advice? We all have our opinions on Ollie’s case. Except that few of us have the legal background to really understand the terrain. Irvings made a reasonable enough argument to suggest that firing Ollie and not paying him wasn’t such safe ground after all. Did Benedict and former President Susan Herbst receive bad legal advice – or sound legal advice and choose to ignore it?

And then: Who advised her to cut women’s rowing? He became a Title IX cause celeb, which allowed UConn to suddenly improve the program with more funding tied to a new boathouse, more coaches, and other improvements.

Now, stories are mounting of the athletic department’s budget shortfall ballooning to $47.2 million for fiscal year 2021. Admittedly, COVID is a factor in the increase. But there is still the question of a base line of $40 million.

UConn’s response came with a statement – again, another impersonal and sweeping missive – saying that athletics “continue to work to become less dependent on institutional support and are on track to reach a level more in line with its peers by the end of the next fiscal year.”

Oh good?

How are they actually going to reduce the deficit this fiscal year? What are they going to do differently that will cause significant needle movement? All we see are nominal reductions (men’s tennis, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s cross country) which cannot amount to tens of millions.

Also, where did the $11 million owed to Ollie come from? Where does the additional funding for women’s rowing come from? And based on UConn’s recent tax history under this leadership, who is gullible enough to believe anything they say?

No one is suggesting that keeping a college athletics department afloat is easy. Other schools also have problems. But Joe and Jane, the average taxpayer, should be outraged to have to float that kind of money.

I assume UConn will invoke its spokespersons to control the message. COVID will be the cosmic crutch used to explain failures, shortcomings and deficiencies enough to suit its standard bearers. But there’s enough evidence of incompetence here for the rest of us to start asking questions. And I’m sure.

That’s the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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