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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Donations hit close to home for UConn's Geno Auriemma

The biggest news in terms of philanthropic endeavors at UConn was the $3 million donation by the Stamford's Denis and Britta Nayden including $1 million towards the UConn Basketball Champions Center. However, earlier in the week an updated accounting of the funds raised Sandy Hook Memorial Scholarship Fund. Considering that the fund started after Geno Auriemma and his wife Kathy wanted to do something tangible to help the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

With the UConn Foundation announcing that $1.1 million has been raised for that fund which will pay for a UConn education for families of the tragedy in Newtown and the one-year anniversary of shooting a week from Saturday, I got Auriemma's take on the incredible response to the fund.

"It is actually my wife's birthday on Dec. 14 and it is a hell of thing to be remembering on your birthday and for whatever reason that thing was so unbelievably tragic because of the people involved in it," Auriemma said. "I was talking to a reporter yesterday, if somebody walks into a mall (and starts shooting) that is tragic, somebody goes into a shopping center or in a building, those are all tragedies. If somebody goes into a grade school and does what that guy did, it scares the hell out of you so you are sitting there and you are numb, what are you going to do? Let's go have a benefit basketball game? Let's have a practice up there, let's have a charity (event), all those things are great but that doesn't do anything for anybody long term and the fact that we got up over $1 million so quickly means that there are a lot of people out there who say 'what can I do? Well, Coach Auriemma gave me $80,000' and that is how much it costs to go to UConn for four years - an in-state kid - so let's get the ball rolling and see what happens. Let's see how many kids we can put through UConn, each and every year it is going to be more and more.

"I know they don't want to publicize it and I don't know who they are but the names aren't that important but there was a kid who was the daughter of one of the teachers that was killed and she had applied to UConn, it didn't mean she wanted to come here but her father was diagnosed with cancer. So she had her mother who was killed, a father with cancer and we are like 'we have the money right now to pay for this kid.' Those are the kinds of things, they have a lasting effect, that is what you want to do you want to have a lasting effect and not just a one-time effect "

Back to the donation by the Nayden's one part of the $3 million donation is $1 milllion being donated if former UConn basketball players - men's and women's - donate $1 million. So Auriemma was asked about his former players giving back financially to UConn.

"I think it is a personal choice that the players have," Auriemma said. "I don't think it is necessarily up to us to say whether they should or they shouldn't, whether the obligated or not obligated to do it. There are two schools of thought here, one is they have a great opportunity that was presented to them by the university, afford them by the university and made it possible for them to accomplish a lot of their goals and that is all true. The other part is they also put Connecticut on the map and they made Connecticut a lot of money and at one point do they have to feel like 'I have to do more.' Each individual has to make that decision. Some people are naturally inclined to do that, others you could ask them 100 times and you could say no. Others, they would do it right away. I think each individual has to make that decision. You look around the country and for whatever reason, it doesn't happen that often. You look around America and you what some of these guys are making in the NBA, the NFL and you pick up the paper and read that they gave $10 million to the school that they went to, it just doesn't happen. The fact that Denis threw it out there is good, it shouldn't just be our athletes either.

"We have 160,000 alums who live in the state of Connecticut and something like 20 percent of them give back to the university so who gets to enjoy what those people do? Those people. So if they want to keep enjoying, they need to step up a little bit. Denis' feeling is it doesn't have to be what he is giving. It doesn't have to be a million, he is giving up $3 million, it doesn't have to be $3 million it could be $30, it could be $3, it could be $50, it could be whatever you want to but at least you are in the game and at least you are a part of the team. I don't think we've ever approached it that way. We are constantly looking at the guy who is going to give us $10/15/20 million. that is the nature of things because one person can do that but there is also another component that not just the men's basketball players and women's basketball players, I think it is a great thing."


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