Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the $3 million gift offered to UConn Wednesday by the Nayden Family was its challenge match to former UConn basketball players to contribute to the new center.
The Nayden gift comes in three parts; $1 million for Champions Center, $1 million in scholarships for student athletes and trainers in the School of Business or the physical therapy or kinesiology programs of the Neag School of Education, and the potential match of up to $1 million for gifts from players.
“It’s a personal choice that the players have,” Geno Auriemma said. “It not up to us to tell them [the players] that they should [give] or they are obligated. There are two schools of thought. They had a great opportunity afforded to them here [at UConn] to help them accomplish their goals. But they also put us on the map and made us [UConn] a lot of money.”
UConn has 58 players (34 men and 24 women) who went on to play in the NBA and the WNBA.
“You wonder, at what point do they need to feel like they have to do more? Each individual needs to make that decision. Some are more naturally inclined to give. Others will say no if you ask them 100 times to give. .. But you look around the country and for some reason it [athletes giving back to their school] doesn’t happen very often, no matter what league.
“The fact that Denis [Nayden] through it [the challenge] out there is good. But it shouldn’t be just on the athletes either. We have 160,000 alumni in the state of Connecticut and something like 20 percent give back. So gets to enjoy what these athletes do? Those people [the alumni]. And if they want to keep enjoying they need to step up a little bit.
“It doesn’t have to be $3 million. It could be $30 or $3 or $50 or whatever. At least you would be in the game, a part of the team.”