Amid the on-going realignment in the NCAA, which has temporarily left UConn feeling somewhat abandoned in the Big East, there has been some thought that the women’s basketball program could do just fine out on their own as an independent.
Geno Auriemma doesn’t agree and says he’s not interested in pursuing it – in thought or action.
“No, I don’t think we can do it and I don’t think it would be worthwhile to do it,” Auriemma said. “And I don’t want to do it. There is something about playing for a conference championship or trying to build allegiances wherever you can.
“If all you had to do was play 12 games a year [football] and could schedule them 10 years in advance, great. But I am not sure that works anymore in basketball, like Notre Dame, Marquette and DePaul once did. There is something to be said about being in a league and experiencing the traditions that come with it.”
Auriemma did not rule out the possibility that each UConn varsity program might someday seek a home best suited for the level of its play.
“I am not privy to any conversations anyone is having about realignment,” Auriemma said. “But to me, if you are a in a conference that stretches all over the nation, and your volleyball, field hockey, baseball and track teams need to fly across the country every year for games, can that be good for student-athletes and is it worth all the money you supposedly are making?
“So, we are already doing it with hockey [the newest member of Hockey East]? I can see a scenario where football and both basketball programs are all a part of mega-conferences and some programs deciding they don’t want to travel 3,000 miles to play. Maybe we can play in a different league, like hockey does, where the best programs that participate in our sport play?
“When we played the Final Four in Minneapolis [in 1995], I can remember how it was described that UConn played in the Big Least conference, that we were the only good school in the league and the rest of the league was terrible. Now 15 years later, we got nine [conference teams in the NCAAs] and people said we were the best conference in the country.
“Well, that’s over. It’s gone. So, maybe it’s time for us to help build another conference, like we did the Big East. We will create the best women’s basketball conference we can. That’s my goal right now.”