Tony Rizza

Joe Morrone built the UConn Huskies men’s soccer program from the ground up, literally. Len Tsantris did the same with the UConn women’s soccer team and continues to do so in his 33rd year at the helm.

UConn men’s soccer head coach Ray Reid has continued the success that his predecessor had in his 17th season as head coach. And now Newington, CT native and UConn graduate Tony Rizza will ensure that the success of both programs continues for generations of future men’s and women’s soccer student-athletes.

Rizza, who had previously given $3 million anonymously, added another $5 million in matching donations to help rebuild Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. The entire facility which includes the training grounds and existing practice fields will be named the Rizza Family Soccer Complex.

“I look forward to seeing my gift help UConn build a world class soccer complex that will keep both the men’s and women’s soccer programs in their spots among the premier soccer programs in America — a place where players want to play and UConn students and fans want to come to enjoy the finest collegiate soccer in America.”

The 1987 graduate of UConn is the senior managing director of Columbus Circle Investors, Inc., a Stamford investment advisory firm with $16.6 billion in assets and 65 employees.

He started 59 games in his UConn soccer career from 1983-1986 and played in three NCAA Tournaments and won two Big East Championships during his career.

“Tony’s gift gives validation to the men’s and women’s soccer team and the athletic department,” said Reid. “These gifts are not usually made to a soccer program in this country.”

“It makes a broad statement to other donors that ‘hey we need your help, look what Tony has done to get us started’.”

The first person to make a donation after Rizza was Coach Reid who donated a $100,000.

Rizza waited until after the UConn Basketball Champions Facility was done to make the second donation. That facility will have its official dedication this Friday with another big announcement, possibly regarding naming rights.

“I thought it would be a good time to give it another shot in the arm, if you well, to the effort and see if we can get it done,” Rizza said.

He also wanted to remain anonymous this time around as well but was talked out of it.

“It’s a pretty big gift and I don’t want people to misinterpret what that means,” said Rizza. “I’m not looking for notoriety or anything like that. I was just looking to help.”

“I didn’t see the need to put my name toward it. I just thought I could give the gift and get the ball rolling from there.”

The $8 million donation by Rizza is the largest ever made to the UConn Division of Athletics.

The plan is to hire an architect over the coming months and then come up with renderings that Rizza along with the two soccer coaches, athletic director Warde Manuel and president Susan Herbst can look at and decide what will be best going forward.

Reid hopes to have a shovel in the ground on the new facility by December of 2015.

photo credit: ian bethune