NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst has not ruled out keeping the school in a reconstituted Big East and said Tuesday that geography is a big factor in deciding whether UConn should join another athletic conference.
Meanwhile, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the school is in good shape as universities jockey for position following the departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Big East Commissioner John Marinatto emerged from a three-hour meeting with officials from the league’s football schools on Tuesday to say his members “pledged to each other that they are committed to move forward together.”
But according to USA Today, citing a source, Big East members “are committed to recruiting more schools but did not make any pledge to remaining in the league until it’s clear what the league will look like.”
UConn is an attractive option, because of its proximity to New York City and proven success in basketball and football. Last season, the Huskies qualified for their first-ever BCS game, a 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in January. Three months later, the men’s basketball team won the national championship, and the women’s team played in the Final Four.
“We will not be left out at all,” Malloy said prior to a building dedication on campus, according to The Associated Press. “We are in the enviable position of trying to figure out and then executing on what’s best for us, but I think we’ll have very good solutions one way or the other. There are clearly people who want UConn in their organizations and I think we’re going to have options.”
In an interview with the AP, Herbst said the school is involved in talks across the country, but wants to find a fit that is right academically, athletically and geographically.
“We’re talking to a lot of people, we have to,” she said. “We think a lot about our student-athletes. We think a lot about their travel schedule, how we can organize where our teams need to be, not lose too much class time and be at places where their families are able to watch games.”
Herbst later said that despite her geographical concerns, being part of a merger between the Big East and some Big 12 schools is not out of the question. But she added that it if the ultimate solution involves a conference with “some pretty far-away” schools, they will need to work carefully on game and practice schedules to minimize the impact.
She said the school has not filed a formal application to join the ACC or any other conference, and said she is not playing favorites when it comes to weighing the school’s options.
“There are a lot of the Big East presidents that I’m very close to and feel a lot of affinity for,” Herbst said. “I was a Duke undergraduate. I can’t deny that I did grow up on ACC basketball. But in both conferences, we have a lot of really terrific presidents who are doing their best to survive this.”
Football coach Paul Pasqualoni said UConn will end up in a BCS conference, and he would like it to be one with a “northeast flavor.” But, he also acknowledged that the program may have to work to develop some new rivalries.
“It’s all driven obviously by the TV deals … and obviously the money,” he said. “That’s the way it is. We have to now do what we feel is the best thing for the University of Connecticut.”
Herbst said the school has “incredible market power” and has been getting as many phone calls as it has been making. She said the talks have not been acrimonious, the process has not been “seamy” and she does not blame Syracuse, Pittsburgh or anyone else for what is ultimately a business decision.
“Fans feel for the institution and the conference, and that’s a great thing,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean the conferences can’t be, shouldn’t be, fluid. Because they are at the end of the day about finding connections with like-minded institutions, teams. And yes, finance is a huge part of this, that’s undeniable.”
Herbst said if she has a choice, the decision would be made in days or weeks, rather than months, but said the timetable is out of her hands, and she has no idea when “all the dominoes might fall.”
Malloy said it’s not as simple as picking a conference, or having one pick UConn.
“It’s not like going to apply for a job, or saying, `I want this to happen,'” he said. “Every one of the schools on the list of 20 schools is doing what we are doing.”
Should UConn bolt for the ACC or stay with the Big East? Be heard in the comments below…
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