Move the 2000 U-Game For A Worthy Cause
By Jeff Goldberg, The Hartford Courant, 12/14/1999

With both UConn teams taking a break for exams this week, I thought this was a good time to propose an idea for next season.

Certainly everyone is by now familiar with the tragedy that struck the town of Worcester, Mass. two weeks ago. One of the smaller stories related to the deaths of the six heroic firefighters came from Foxboro, Mass., where members of the New England Patriots, led by offensive lineman Max Lane, took up a collection for the families of the victims.

It was a feel-good story; an encouraging reminder that in a world of increasingly selfish and boorish multi-millionare athletes, there's still room for compassion and a sense of civic duty.

For the Worcester Six, the kindness of the sports world need not stop with the Patriots. Built into the fabric of the UConn basketball program is an even better opportunity to aid the 15 children who are now fatherless, as well as providing support for firefighters and their families in the surrounding area.

The UConn-UMass U-Game has been played in Hartford, Amherst and Storrs. Next year's game is scheduled to return to Hartford.

Here's an idea: Move the 2000 game to Worcester. Play the U-Game near the Dec. 3 anniversary of the fire. Divide up the proceeds from the U-Game and donate them to the families of the victims and firemen funds in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.

An even better idea: Turn it into a men's and women's doubleheader. Maybe play it out over two nights. Twice the profits. Twice the kindness.

Playing U-Games in Worcester makes sense anyway, from a logisitical standpoint. Located bascially at the midpoint between Storrs and Amherst, the Centrum provides an ideal neutral court. The Centrum has always been a decent basketball venue -- ask any UMass fan who was there for the 1992 NCAA Tournament regionals.

And for the first time since the series began, the outrageous ticket prices would be more than worth the money spent.

Ah, the money. Unfortunately, it's why this idea probably won't even be considered by the U-Game's organizers. No one is naive enough to think UConn and UMass renewed their rivalry -- brought to you by Mass Mutual -- because of the prospect for scintillating basketball. It's all about making money for the schools.

However, one would like to think the memory of six dead firemen, and the 15 fatherless children left behind, would be a worthy cause for playing a charity basketball game.

Remember, if a fire breaks out in the athletic department offices of UConn or UMass tomorrow, it isn't the CEO of Mass Mutual that's going to risk his life to save the lives of others.

Playing basketball games for the benefit of others is not new to the UConn program. Both the men and the women just participated in tournaments benefitting the fight against cancer -- a most worthy cause.

The deaths of six firemen was not just a tragedy for Worcester. It was a regional tragedy, even national. Anyone who watched car after car on I-84 filled with firefighters heading for the memorial service knows that.

So too, the UConn-UMass basketball game is not confined to two campuses. It is a regional game, and with the backing of ESPN, it has become national as well. And lending a helping hand to the surviving families -- particularly at holiday time -- is certainly as noble a cause as Coaches Vs. Cancer.

A fireman's charity U-Game in Worcester, promoted and televised on ESPN, could be one of the great New England feel-good stories of all time. There are plenty of other games on the schedule for the two schools to make a profit.

This is an idea that benefits everyone.

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