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Geno Auriemma speaks out on Big East breakup

Geno Auriemma runs a women’s UConn program that has dominated the sport, not to mention the league. (AP)

It was only a matter of time until Geno Auriemma spoke up and out on conference realignment. If you thought college basketball took a back seat in the discussion, then women’s hoops wasn’t even a part of the dialogue when it came to the decisions of college presidents on which programs should play in which leagues.

Auriemma is about fed up with it, but he understands the motivations. What I find undeniable is that you could place his Connecticut program in any league in the country and it wouldn’t much make difference. Auriemma’s team would keep on throttling, continue to steamroll college basketball in the grand scope from now until he decides he’s done with the game. He boasts four of the six all-time undefeated seasons in women’s college basketball history and has seven national title banners hanging in Gampel Pavilion.

But the Big East is his home. It’s where he’s built up the UConn women’s team into one the greatest dynasties in all of American sports. He’s won a conference title nearly every season he’s been at the school (since 1985) and is 390-58 lifetime in the only league he’s ever coached in. That league is now about to get even worse, meaning Auriemma is going to win all that much more frequently and unfussily.

That said, here’s what he said regarding the Catholic 7 deciding to pack up its things and break away from the Big East.

 

“I hope they all leave tomorrow,” Auriemma said. “But they can’t, because we have to play out the [2012-13] schedule. But as soon as it’s over, let them go and do what they need to do, just like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia did. West Virginia did it the right way. They said they didn’t want to be in the Big East any more and said, ‘See you later, I’m out of here.’ ” I hope they all take that approach.”

Auriemma said he thinks the Catholic schools stayed in the Big East until there was no more money left in it for them, thanks to the uncertainty of how much a major network would pay to affiliate with a stripped-down version of the conference.

“Everyone has their own ideas and theories. Everyone wants to live in a nostalgic world where, as Garrison Keillor said, all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average. Everyone wants to live in the place where the nine original schools of the Big East are all together and will play against each other forever. Then football became the driving vehicle. You are either at the table with the big boys or you are not. …

[The Catholic schools] like to say the state schools are the big bad guys. I’ve heard my share of that in my time in the conference.”

 

It’s just Auriemma letting off steam, giving voice to frustration that must be felt throughout women’s college basketball. And beyond that, every sport that’s not football or men’s basketball. These conferences are reformatted for the purposes of making money and TV contracts for the two big sports, but all the other schools have to endure the travel and inconvenience/expensive nature of longer trips.

Auriemma (who recently donated $80,000 to jump-start a scholarship fund for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy) is the appropriate voice for this, vain as it may be. This is what he does. He’s never been afraid to speak out on issues, even look to change or shake things up. Only here, he’s truly helpless, adding to the echo chamber of afterthought that is the other 90 percent of intercollegiate college sports.

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