This weekend, we learned that the University of Connecticut elected to terminate head coach Kevin Ollie after six seasons. I want to congratulate Mr. Ollie, a Glastonbury resident, for his many years of service to UConn as a player, as an assistant, and as a head coach. Connecticut residents will never forget how he led UConn to Big East championships in 1994 and 1995, kept our storied basketball program afloat in 2013, and led UConn to its fourth national championship in 2014. I am optimistic that Mr. Ollie and the University will reach a settlement that is amenable to all parties.
Mr. Ollie’s termination by the University raises a number of key issues for our State, however. First, we have learned that the American Association of University Professors, a state employees’ union, will be representing him in his appeal, and will have final say on any settlement between Mr. Ollie and UConn. When did we reach the point where a state employees’ union for university professors controls the future of a man who is not a professor, and made nearly $3.5 million this season? And why should this union have veto power over any settlement between Mr. Ollie and the University? This is Exhibit A of the overreach and influence of public sector unions in Connecticut. Mr. Ollie can afford his own attorney, and should be permitted to approve a settlement with UConn on his own behalf, without obtaining a union’s permission first.
Next, I recognize that in the high-stakes world of college athletics, replacing a head coach is occasionally necessary. This has happened in recent years at other blueblood programs of UConn’s caliber, such as UCLA, Indiana or North Carolina. Yet while those other schools are able to reach into deep pockets that are lined with substantial television revenues in order to buy out contracts and hire new coaches, UConn – which has languished in the American Athletic Conference for the last several years – is not so fortunate.
The blame for UConn’s current conference affiliation lies squarely at the feet of Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Gov. Dannel Malloy. It was Sen. Blumenthal who unwisely sued the Atlantic Coast Conference and its directors along with its member institutions and their presidents, as Attorney General, in a scorched-earth campaign that only succeeded in tarnishing UConn’s name. Meanwhile, Gov. Malloy, a Boston College alumnus, stood idly by as his alma mater blackballed UConn from entry into the ACC in 2011 and 2012, costing UConn tens of millions of dollars and uncountable losses in damage to its brand and prestige.
UConn’s conference affiliation further highlights the fallacy of Gov. Malloy’s plan to spend $250 million on renovations to the XL Center. If UConn’s schedule was loaded with Power Five opponents, such a renovation would arguably make sense in a better economic climate. Yet the Huskies played to barely fifty percent capacity in Hartford this season. In UConn’s current situation, renovating the XL Center is unthinkable.
As your Governor, I will loosen the grip of public sector unions on our State. I will also come up with a plan to leverage the State’s and our flagship institution’s assets to get UConn into a Power Five conference. The financial future of our University’s athletic teams necessarily depends on this. Yet I will not commit a single dollar to renovating an obsolete building unless and until we have a commitment-in-hand from a Power Five conference or a major league professional team. Gov. Malloy’s “if you build it, they will come” philosophy did not work with the busway and it will not work with the XL Center. Your tax dollars are far too important, to me and to you.