HARTFORD, Conn. -- The top Republican in the Connecticut Senate wants private donors to pick up the cost of UConn's departure from the American Athletic Conference.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano wrote on Wednesday to the school's new president, Tom Katsouleas, urging him to have the UConn Foundation pick up the $20.5 million tab and not students or taxpayers.
The money includes a $17 million exit fee to the AAC and a $3.5 million entrance fee to rejoin the Big East for the 2020-21 academic year. The exit fee must be paid in full by the end of the 2026 fiscal year.
A spokeswoman for UConn said Katsouleas spoke to Fasano on Thursday by telephone and explained that 99% of the existing donations made to the foundation cannot, by law, be used for any other purpose. Stephanie Reitz said UConn "would of course welcome any donor interest in helping to defray the costs of our conference change," nothing the university is "exploring this possibility."
UConn has said it plans to use the school's share of AAC revenue from 2019 and 2020 to help pay the exit fee, along with money generated from sources such as athletics, dining, housing and parking.
"While I appreciate the effort to protect certain funds from being used for this expense, I remain very concerned about pushing these costs onto students," Fasano wrote. "As UConn stated, this will be paid for using revenue collected from students for things like housing and meals. If you have extra money in this non-academic revenue fund, it begs the question: are we overcharging students for these expenses? And if additional money exists, why does UConn continue to ask the state for more taxpayer funding year after year to cover growing expenses such as fringe benefit costs?"
The school's return to the Big East, announced in June, is designed to energize its fan base by renewing some of the old rivalries with St. John's, Georgetown, Seton Hall and Villanova. It also will cut down the number of costly road trips to states such as Oklahoma, Florida and Texas for conference games. UConn currently is facing a deficit in athletics of more than $40 million.
UConn has said it expects the move eventually will help its bottom line. It has said that since word of the move season ticket sales are way up for both basketball programs.
AAC bylaws stipulate any school seeking to leave the conference must give 27 months' notice and pay a $12 million fee, but the sides negotiated the higher fee in exchange for allowing UConn to leave sooner.
The Huskies will join the Big East in all sports except football, men's and women's ice hockey and rowing. The football program will become an independent in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2020. The Hockey programs will remain in Hockey East.