I had the opportunity to speak with UConn athletic director Warde Manuel Saturday night before the Huskies won the Island Division championship at the Paradise Jam tournament by beating Purdue.
The conversation touched on a number of subjects.
The football team’s overtime win at Louisville
“It was a great win for the team. I thought they really showed great effort, tenacity and resolve, particularly in the second half. We weren’t moving the ball very well and they [Louisville] started to move it better. But we showed great resolve during the time when Louisville had the momentum. We kept fighting.
“I watched the entire game with several of our donors and fans. It made us very proud. It’s a game of emotion and in the end it was elation. I’m just glad that their efforts in practice, sticking together as a team and not breaking apart, whining and making excuses. They showed the ability that their effort helped them produce.”
On the chances UConn could now wrap up bowl eligibility by defeating Cincinnati next week
“There is still work to be done. But we can celebrate a great victory against a great team. They’ve [Louisville] been one of the best teams in our conference and to win on their home field was very impressive.
“It would mean a lot to the team and all of us at UConn if it [a bowl game] happened. It would give us a chance to showcase ourselves against another league. But we’ll take one win at a time. If it was up to me, and I am sure Paul is saying this too, let’s not worry about being bowl eligble. Don’t think about anything other than what we need to do to continue to be successful against another team.”
Did the former Michigan defensive end get a chance to see Saturday’s Michigan-Ohio State game
“The place we were at was a sports bar and we had three of the televisions on the Connecticut game and one on the Michigan-Ohio State game. I was paying much more attention to our game, but when I had the chance I turned my attention to another great Michigan-Ohio State battle. As a former Michigan Wolverine, we were on the wrong side of this one.”
On whether the win might help build momentum, or enhance the resume of UConn as a possible expansion program in the ACC or Big Ten
“I don’t look at it that way. I felt all along that we’ve been doing the right thing to showcase that we’ve been good and great in many of our programs. To be such a young program in Division I, to have won Big East titles and go to the Fiesta Bowl … I am sure when Lew Perkins first pushed for this [UConn as Division I football program] I’m not sure he felt it could happen this quickly.
We’ve gone through transition, and it’s not as easy as people think it is. It’s a difficult road to travel. So I would ask people to believe in us and the program. We’re working to be the best in everything we do.”
Whether he thinks this week may reveal something about UConn’s future
“I don’t know what’s coming. All I can do is monitor the situation and continue to make sure we are doing the right things. I can’t make any predictions about what will happen. I truly have no sense about what kind of timeline they may be working with.”
On how things are going with Geno Auriemma’s contract extension
“Heck no, it’s not on the back burner. It’s on the front burner where it should be. We’ve talked and it and it will be finalized at the appropriate time. But it is for five years. His current deal is five and this will be an extension. I haven’t said anything [to change the duration] and he hasn’t said anything. So we’re working on that assumption. And the first year would be next season.”