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Monday, September 19, 2011
Jim Calhoun thinks UConn should own it

By Eamonn Brennan

On Sunday, after Pittsburgh and Syracuse officially put the Big East into conference realignment DEFCON 1, our own Andy Katz and Joe Schad reported that Connecticut was the latest school to pursue ACC membership. The Huskies were making an "aggressive" push, according to a source close to the program, with the implication being that UConn and then Rutgers would round out an eventual 16-team ACC.

Naturally, UConn president Susan Herbst issued a statement on the matter. Herbst said that while UConn was "a proud charter member of the Big East" the school was staying "actively involved in discussions with our counterparts from around the country to ensure the successful long-term future of our university's athletic program." In other words, UConn is looking, even if it isn't totally willing to be the bad guy that helped sink the Big East -- at least in public -- just quite yet.

Jim Calhoun was less diplomatic about the move. Speaking to CBS' Jeff Goodman, Calhoun basically said UConn should look out for UConn. To wit:
"We have a lot to offer," Calhoun told CBSSports.com on Monday morning. "We're very attractive now. This isn't 25 years ago. It's a different world now here."'

"What UConn needs to do is put it head down and take care of UConn," Calhoun said. "Do what's best for us - just like everyone else needs to do what's best for their institution."

That's a wholly rational response. It's also weirdly admirable. There is no inclination to pay some tender lip service toward the Big East. Calhoun doesn't deny that conference expansion is about naked self-interest. He doesn't think UConn should have to hide its desire to do what's best for the school, even if that move essentially kills a proud conference the Huskies helped found. He's not pretending. Why should UConn?

If you ever needed a reason why conference realignment was always inevitable, look no further than the past 24 hours in the Big East. Its members -- charter members -- all seem to love the league. But the ones that can get better deals are rushing to take them. They're "doing what's best for us -- just like everyone else." That perception -- or reality or attitude or whatever you want to call it -- is that's why the Big East is currently imploding. We probably shouldn't have been so surprised.

And, hey, there's something to be said for these ACC moves -- they do offer the chance to see Syracuse, Pitt and UConn face Duke and North Carolina on a regular basis. Calhoun seems more than excited for that:
"I'd face any challenge. Anywhere," Calhoun said. "Line 'em up and let's play them. I'd be excited by it."

It doesn't make the Big East's plight any less unfortunate, but -- sigh -- I'd be pretty excited by that, too. Wouldn't you?