Geno Auriemma offers to forgo pay in education budget battle

STORRS, Conn. -- Hall of Fame basketball coach Geno Auriemma has waded into Connecticut's budget battle, offering to go unpaid next year in response to criticism over high salaries at UConn.

Auriemma is slated to make more than $2 million next year. He offered to forgo his pay after reading comments from a lawmaker who justified cuts by saying that a lot of people at UConn make a lot of money.

"I'll tell you what. I'll work for free next year," Auriemma told the Hartford Courant. "I'll give up what the state pays me, what the taxpayers are paying me, but guess what? I pay my taxes and I don't care how much money it costs for me to have good schools where I live in Manchester. My [adult] kids don't go to school there. I can afford it. I want to be proud of our town's education system. Why is it that older people turn their back on education when somebody paid for their kids when they were in school? We've lost sight of what we have to do for other people."

Connecticut still has no state budget, more than two months into the fiscal year, and Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, has vowed to veto a Republican-backed budget passed by the Legislature, in part because it contains large cuts to UConn.

Auriemma, who has coached the school's women's basketball teams to 11 national titles, told the Courant he understands the reality of the situation and that he worries education cuts will mean his grandchildren won't be able to go to an affordable state university.

"I do not want to come across as someone who doesn't understand what the realities are," Auriemma told the paper. "Not unlike a lot of states, Connecticut is facing real issues of how to pay its obligations. Some people are going to get hurt. I don't know if anyone is going to get helped. This is like a family issue. Everybody is going to have to suffer a little bit.

"You try to be fair to everyone, real about what your priorities are and don't let politics get in the way. Whether it's the politics of UConn lobbying for its benefit or one party or another -- one's in favor, one's against -- and then it's less about the issue and more about who's going to be right and who's going to be wrong."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.