The first game ever between the UConn women and Oregon Monday will be followed by the second game ever next season in Connecticut.
These types of relationships, most times resulting in one-sided wins for the Huskies, are the fuel the fires the schedules of Division I men’s and women’s basketball all over the nation.
And now that the future of the Big East is uncertain, especially with the announcement this month that the seven Catholic schools will be leaving no later than 2015-16, the need to develop series like UConn-Oregon may become even more important for the Huskies.
“I would hope we will know what is going to happen with that [the departure of the Catholic 7] sooner rather than later,” Geno Auriemma said Monday after UConn’s 95-51 win over Oregon. “I haven’t talked to anyone at the school about what those schools may be thinking, but obviously, if we [the remainder of the conference] can get those schools to commit to a plan, one way or the other, well, the sooner they do that the better.”
Should Villanova, Seton Hall, Marquette, Providence, Georgetown, DePaul and St. John’s leave the conference after this season, the conference would be left with only eight basketball playing schools.
That would likely lead to the Big East adopting a home-and-home format between UConn, South Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida and Temple that would build a base of 14 games.
That would leave UConn the task of finding new teams to play, as soon as next season, if more teams aren’t added to the conference.
“It would be that hard to find schools to play,” Auriemma said. “You don’t need that many new contractual obligations. We already have many. But I sure would like to know as soon a possible what those guys [the Catholic 7] plan to do.”
Deb Corum, UConn’s new senior administrator of women’s basketball, has the job of filling those slots. She came to the Huskies this season after a long administrative career in the Southeastern Conference where she match-made with other conferences and the television networks.
“Next year’s schedule is already in the bag, unless we are forced to go out for some reason and find other games,” Corum said. “That would depend, of course, on what happens with the Big East.”
UConn already has contracts to play Penn State, Maryland, Duke, Stanford, Baylor, Oregon and Hartford next season. Ohio State, Boston University, Old Dominion and St. Bonaventure are also on next year’s schedule as, most likely California will be – should they agree to play the Huskies in the Maggie Dixon Classic in New York City.
“You deal right now with the information that you have,” Corum said. “That being said, you still prepare for something that might happen. And the way you do that is by looking for and contacted what schools that might want to play us [women’s basketball].
“If this [the departure of the Catholic 7 happens] there are many other conferences whose schedules will also be impacted. When Texas A&M joined the SEC [before this season] we had to throw the schedule we had out and start over again. What you do is start making those phone calls to get as many programs set up – just in case. To be honest, my brain is already thinking about it.”
Auriemma has said many times he would not pursue a path that could turn UConn women’s basketball into an independent. Without some conference affiliation to fall back on, there would be too many gaps to fill on an annual 30-game schedule.
“It would be a challenge. It would be a great challenge, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be possible,” Corum said. “There would be a lot of teams that will want to play us because of the potential impact it would have on their RPI. You could play us and lose and still have it help your RPI.
“We are looking at every program that is strong, and might potential be strong. Those are the types of teams we want to play,” Corum said.
One of those programs that could be on the horizon again is Tennessee, who UConn hasn’t played since 2007, perhaps in a series of games that would benefit Pat Summitt’s Foundation.
“Preliminary talks,” Corum said. “We’ll see what happens with that. Hopefully, we can make some bridges move.
“But if it happened, it likely would until at least the 2013-14 season.”