I just completed a three-hour stint listening to Geno Auriemma’s drive-time debut as a talk show host on WTIC-1080. It’s the first time I’ve ever listened to the show door-to-door, so to speak, and the one thing I will remember is how often the station updated traffic and weather. Good to remember if either topic is on my mind from 3 to 6 p.m.
It seemed like the breaks kind of caught Geno by surprise. Every time he was getting his offense going, the ball was back in Villanova’s hands; and he had to slow down, stop and start again. But that’s show business.
As for the highlights, he was asked about a few topics relating to his team, the nine-time national champion UConn women. He was asked what he felt about Hartford’s decision to build a baseball stadium for a minor-league team when its XL Center needs so much work.
Geno candidly admitted how underwhelmed he is with the lack of many amenities available in the old joint in comparison to the sparking new buildings sprouting up around the nation, saying at one point that you would never guess it was the home-away-from-home of the two current national champions of college basketball. But he has said that before and those who are interested in his point of view about that are already well aware of it.
He was pressed by some callers about his stances on immigration and the second amendment, but he handled it calmly without going all FoxNews or MSNBC on anybody.
And then he ended the three hours with this response to a question about the future of UConn athletics.
“We have already been affected by it [conference realignment]. We used to be a part of the best basketball league that ever existed [the Big East]. Go back two or three years and the Big East provided the best [college] basketball ever played, men and women.
“But football has taken the lead and the big five power conferences want to do their own things, separate from the NCAA, if possible, and have their own rules to do whatever they want, whenever they want and how ever they want. UConn had a choice. We could have moved forward without football and end up where the Big East is now, which I don’t know where that is. Or we could go with football and try to maximize it and create enough interest [in the school] that the [power] conferences might include us.
How do you do that? Well, just winning at football isn’t enough. It’s the interest level [in the program that's important]. How many fans or viewers can you bring to the conference. If [admission] was just based on the success of a universities athletic department, how do you take Rutgers over Connecticut in the Big Ten if it was just about success?
“They tell you its academics, this and that. It’s about nothing but how many people in that area will watch the conference on television and are you [the school] in an area a conference wishes to expand. We had some issues that prevented us from getting into the ACC; there were some things we did back in the day, like suing the conference. We did a lot of dumb things that are still haunting us.
“But the only thing we can do now is this – be the best athletic program we can be, the best university we can be and win the most games we can in every sport while selling out every stadium and venue we have. That will let everyone else in the country know that whether you like us or don’t like us, you are going to have to compete against us. That is the only thing we have control over.”