POST PARTNERS WITH SUN
BY LANCE REYNOLDS
WATERBURY — Jennifer Rizzotti, president of the Connecticut Sun, often discusses with her players what they’d like to do after playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Many of the 18 players on the roster are unsure of their exact plans, she said.
A partnership with Post University announced on Monday will provide Sun players and front office employees access to the school’s continuing education and career development programs. It will also be offered to members of the Mohegan tribe and employees of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment.
See POST , Page 6A
Jennifer Rizzotti, president of the Connecticut Sun and former UConn standout, presents Bobby L. Reese Jr., chief operating officer of Post University, with a Sun jersey that has the Post logo after signing a partnership between the university and the team in Waterbury on Monday.
STEVEN VALENTI REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Continued from Page One
Joan Huwiler, Post’s director of communications, said the university will be offering a tuition discount, with the Mohegan Tribal Council of Elders providing most of the education funding. Specifics on the funding for the partnership were unavailable Monday.
“They are eager and hungry for education,” Rizzotti said of her players. “They want to know more about what they could be doing, not just after they finish playing but even while they’re still continuing to play.”
The WNBA prioritizes tuition reimbursement, Rizzotti said. As part of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the league’s player association, the WNBA each year contributes at least $75,000 toward education programs, according to the latest CBA in 2020. There are 12 teams in the league.
The Sun play at Mohegan Sun Arena inside the Uncasville casino and are owned by Mohegan Sun. Employees across the company are provided $1,000 per year in tuition reimbursement, according to a Mohegan Sun employee benefit form.
All Sun players have at least a bachelor’s degree, Rizzotti said after a ceremonial signing. To be drafted into the WNBA, players must either graduate college or be 22-years-old in the year of the draft.
A goal of the collaboration is for Sun players to start taking graduate-level courses while they’re still playing, said Rizzotti, who helped guide the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team to its first championship in 1995. They’d take online classes, she said.
The average playing career in the WNBA is about seven to eight years, Rizzotti said. Some players on her roster, however, are in their mid-30s. UConn graduate Sue Bird, considered one of the best WNBA players of all time, is still playing at age 41 since being drafted first overall in 2002 by the Seattle Storm.
“Those are rarities,” Rizzotti said. “Their bodies start to break down, or players may want to start families or pursue something different. It’s just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity to play when you can but being smart enough to set yourself up for when that ends.”
As the Sun’s official education partner, Post will be featured on a jersey patch for the next four seasons. The 2022 season starts May 7 in New York.
The Sun are the first professional sports team that Post has partnered with to provide educational opportunities. The Sun were chosen through its affiliation with the Mohegan tribe, said Bobby Reese, the university’s chief operating officer.
“We met with Mohegan and heard the Connecticut Sun had a need, and we could help them with that need,” Reese said. “They are very serious about education after basketball.”
In 2020-21, the school had 12,848 students, with just 800 taking classes on its main campus, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Family members of those employed by the Connecticut Sun and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment will also have access to Post programs.
Most Mohegan tribal members live in eastern Connecticut, said Beth Regan, vice chairwoman of Mohegan Tribal Council of Elders.
“It means so much to all of us as Mohegans to have a partnership with a university, especially because of the way this university works, it’s so accessible to so many,” she said.
Bobby L. Reese Jr., left, chief operating officer of Post University, and Jennifer Rizzotti, president of Connecticut Sun, sign a partnership between the university and the Sun on the school’s campus in Waterbury on Monday. Beth Regan ‘Morning Deer,’ vice chairwoman and Justice of the Mohegan Tribal Council of Elders, is at right.
STEVEN VALENTI REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN