Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Off-Broadway: UConn's Auriemma Sings The Realignment Blues

(Guru's Note: The Guru has separate coverage of the day at Philly.com for The Inquirer sports print section and more at Full Court Press where he will be providing a Big East women's notebook for the season.)

By Mel Greenberg

B.B. King’s was an appropriate setting for Big East women’s basketball media day on Thursday because within a matter of minutes of the one-on-one interview sessions getting under way Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma belted into his version of the conference realignment blues.

Despite commissioner John M. Marinatto’s request to writers and broadcasters in his opening remarks to focus on the annual reason for the group of 16 schools and media to assemble, Auriemma was drawn into a chorus featuring Notre Dame as the subject of his dismay.

No, the loquacious coach had little argument over the Irish’s pick by his colleagues over a slim margin ahead of his Huskies to win the Big East, which is a first-time outright choice in the 17 years Notre Dame has been part of the Big East.

After all, superstar Maya Moore has moved on to winning championships in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx following her graduation and two NCAA titles in 2009 and 2010 bookended by two other Women’s Final Four appearances – one in 2008, which saw a loss to Stanford in the semifinals -- and another last season in which Notre Dame reversed three setbacks to the Huskies prior to the national tournament meeting in the semifinals.

However, when it came to the cash cow known as Notre Dame football, Auriemma wailed a different tune.

In the preceding weeks, Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced they were running away to the Atlantic Coast Conference, while TCU decided that the Big 12 was a better place than becoming a rival of UConn next season.

UConn, itself, had expressed an eagerness to also join the ACC if invited, while Rutgers echoed the Huskies’ sentiments.

Furthermore, Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia have all been mentioned as potential targets for a grab by the Big 12 if Missouri joins defending NCAA women’s champion Texas A&M in leaving that conference for the SEC.

And the Big East is scrambling to find replacements and ensure its relevance in the BCS with a 12-team football alignment.

“"In this whole thing, it's only one sure thing, Notre Dame doesn't play football in our league and that's a bone of contention with a lot of us," Auriemma said. "They don't play in our league and they never want to play in our league. To a lot of us, it's a huge problem.

"They've been in our league 18 years (actually 17), something like that. How long are we going to date before we decide this just ain't working? I'm not happy about it. That's not the opinion of the University of Connecticut, the Big East conference, my president, my athletic director. That's just Geno Auriemma's opinion. I'm pissed about it.

"If Notre Dame had come in as a football and basketball school when they came in, we wouldn't have a problem with this (expansion)," Auriemma continued. "Miami wouldn't have left. Virginia Tech wouldn't have left. Boston College wouldn't have left.

"We probably wouldn't have any of these issues. It's one school that holds the future of our league in the palm of their hands and they're really not that concerned about it."

"They're looking out for their best interest and I don't blame them,'' Auriemma observed. "But join us in football and then look out for your own best interest. I just don't like the way we've gone about it.

"If you know that you as a school have the ability to put a whole bunch of schools at ease, and have the Catholic mentality that we're here to serve and help. I went to Catholic school all my life. I love Jesus, and I'm not even a Republican."

-- Mel


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