With the recent departures in the Big East, should the Connecticut women's basketball team consider going independent?
Connecticut could pull off independence
By Michelle Smith
They should consider it strongly.
The realignment decisions that have taken place over the past few weeks are all about football, with nobody in anybody's conference offices giving a rip about the competitive wasteland left over for the country's biggest brand name in women's basketball.
So perhaps the Huskies ought to just go rogue and do what's best for them: schedule who they want, when they want, collect a nice paycheck from the TV deals and turn themselves into the Notre Dame football of women's basketball.
Winning conference championships have never been Connecticut's stated goal. Recruits don't come to Storrs to win a Big East title; they aim much higher.
If any program in the country could do this, it would be Connecticut. Not that it would be easy. Scheduling an entire season would be a trick, but it would be fun to watch the Huskies try. And it would bring some swagger to the women's game that is sorely needed. Something like, "Hey, we're Connecticut. We don't need no stinkin' league."
Going independent no easy task
By Melissa Isaacson
Amid the rubble that is the Big East and the refugees that are Connecticut's athletic programs, the UConn women's basketball team looks to be sitting in the best position.
With the Huskies' other teams still hoping for an invitation to join another major conference, Geno Auriemma's seven-time NCAA national champions appear to be able to pick and choose and still dominate wherever they go. At first glance, it also appears they can be the Notre Dame football of women's basketball and go independent.
But appearances, as is often said, can be deceiving, and they are in this case. Presumably, the UConn women, with SportsNet New York behind them, could still attract top recruits. But recruits like conference rivalries. And conference championships. So do those who vote on the rankings.
Scheduling a full complement of top opponents as an independent is another challenge. What incentive does another powerhouse team from a power conference have to schedule UConn? Not many. Auriemma's group may be in the best position, but that doesn't mean it's an enviable one.
League problems no problem for UConn
By Graham Hays
There are currently two independents in women's college basketball: Cal State Bakersfield and New Orleans. The Big East might not look great at the moment, but it looks better than that company. So no. Emphatically, no.
The Connecticut women's basketball program is in some ways one of a kind, not only the rare women's team with almost all of its games televised but one for which there is competition to secure those rights, leading to a change in broadcast partners after last season. But Connecticut is not Notre Dame football, with a network waiting to throw a national deal its way. Nor is it BYU, with its own channel and a national fan base. And without a monetary television incentive, what's the point of going it alone as an independent?
Outside of Tennessee, for reasons that have been discussed over and over again, Connecticut already plays most every heavyweight out of conference -- Baylor, Duke and Stanford among them. It can fit a series with ACC member Notre Dame on the schedule, especially if its own conference becomes less competitive (although it's worth noting that while programs such as DePaul, Louisville and Rutgers are losses, parting company with the likes of Providence and Seton Hall removes significant RPI lead weights). Whether it's what's left of the Big East, some version of Conference USA (if there is a difference between those two at this point) or something else, a conference still provides an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and reliable scheduling to fill in around the games that really matter. Connecticut gains nothing by giving that up.
Connecticut women's basketball will suffer when Geno Auriemma leaves the program, not when much of the rest of the Big East leaves Connecticut.
Independent life isn't easy
By Kate Fagan
No. That just feels like too much of a logistical nightmare. It's one thing for Notre Dame football to play as an independent because the college football season is 12 or 13 games long. So while scheduling is difficult, it's not overly crazy. In addition, Notre Dame can turn its status as an independent into a lucrative TV deal. The same does not hold true for UConn women's basketball.
Regardless of what Big East women's basketball looks like in the next few years, even if the weekly top-10 battles no longer exist, there will still be a slate of quality opponents. If UConn became an independent, Big East schools are the types of opponents the Huskies would still be trying to get games with anyway. Because the best schedules are difficult but well-balanced -- grueling games against the Baylors and the Dukes mixed with a solid league schedule.
No matter what opponents exist for the Huskies within the Big East, they can still schedule their nonconference games however they like. I think the key thing to remember is that just because Notre Dame football makes the independent life look easy, it isn't. And in women's basketball, every team needs the foundation of a league and the TV deal that comes along with membership.
Recreating an East Coast league the ideal
By Bonnie D. Ford
It's a move that might be logical if Connecticut is sure it can remain Connecticut -- i.e., if the program retains its historic supremacy and can use that to leverage the schedule it wants for the forseeable future. The Huskies have already parlayed their résumé into a more lucrative TV contract.
But there is a downside to going unaffiliated in a sport that, while stronger than ever, is still building momentum compared to college football or men's basketball. Regional rivalries are going out the window with realignment, which is a shame. The women's hoops teams in the Big East made each other better. The addition of Connecticut would lift the level of any conference, and if I could wave a wand, I'd create (or recreate) an East Coast grouping that made geographical and competitive sense.