Here are the comments from UConn coach Geno Auriemma on the $3 million donation made by Denis and Britta Nayden towards the new UConn Basketball Champions Center and, in particular, the challenge match of up to $1 million for gifts from former UConn basketball players.
“The fact that Denis threw it out there, I think it’s good,’’ Auriemma said. “I think that shouldn’t just be our athletes either. We have 160,000 alums that live in the state of Connecticut, and something like 20 percent of them give back to the university. So who gets to enjoy what these players do? Those people. So if they want to keep enjoying, then they need to step up a little bit. And what Dennis’ feeling is that it doesn’t have to be what he’s giving. It doesn’t have to be a million. He’s giving us three million. It doesn’t have to be three million. It could be $30. It could be $3. It could be $50. It could be whatever you wanted to do. But at least you’re in the game, and at least you’re part of the team.
“So if you went to UConn and you’re one of those 160,000 alums and you want to give 10 bucks to the athletic department because you want to continue to watch our sports do great then you’re automatically on the team. And I don’t think we’ve ever done enough to approach it that way. We’re constantly looking for the guy that’s going to give you $10, $15, $20 million whatever. That’s the nature of things because one person can do that. But there’s also another component that Denis is challenging, not just the men’s basketball players and the women’s basketball players. I think it’s a great thing. It’s something that we all should aspire to be on the team. All of us.’’