UConn scrambling after ACC snub
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut found itself left behind in the conference realignment shuffle again Wednesday when Louisville was picked over the Huskies to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, becoming the fifth football member to leave the Big East in just over a year.
UConn had been courting the ACC and was thought to be a leading candidate to replace Maryland after the Terrapins accepted an invitation this month to join the Big Ten.
"I know this may seem like a tough moment for our fans, but we need to focus on the fundamentals of academic success across the university and in our athletic program as well," UConn president Susan Herbst said. "We are winners. We win, we like to win and we will continue to play the best possible opponents. We will be athletically successful, regardless of our conference, because of our successes in NCAA competition."
The Huskies have a resume they thought would be attractive to the ACC. UConn has three NCAA men's basketball titles and seven women's championships since 1995, and the football program has been to five bowls in its first decade as an FBS program.
It's also a top-20 research university in a top-40 television market, and has a television contract with New York cable network SNY.
"Husky Nation is strong all over the country and the world," athletic director Warde Manuel said. "UConn has one of the most captive audiences of any school in the country and we have strong penetration in several of the nation's largest television markets."
But Louisville was thought to be a better fit for ACC football, with better facilities, a larger stadium, a longer history as a major college football program, and the perception of being a better "football school."
That upset some UConn players, who noted Tuesday that UConn is just two seasons removed from a Fiesta Bowl berth, and is 4-4 against Louisville in Big East play after beating the Cardinals last Saturday.
"When you're judged and people don't know what really happens, it gets under your skin," defensive end Trevardo Williams said. "We'll use that as motivation because we're actually a good team."
The ACC's decision doesn't mean UConn will stop trying to find a better landing spot than the Big East. The ACC remains a possibility if the league decides to expand to 16 teams, or any other schools leave that conference. Clemson and Florida State have been mentioned as potential targets for the SEC.
"We have and will continue to monitor the situation regarding conference realignment," Manuel said, "and work to ensure that UConn is in the best position for the continued success of our athletic programs."
The loss of Louisville and Rutgers follows last year's departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, and West Virginia to the Big 12. Notre Dame, which had been a Big East member in everything but football, has also announced it will take those teams to the ACC.
On Tuesday, the Big East countered by adding Tulane for all sports and East Carolina for football only beginning in 2014.
"Big East teams will continue to compete and succeed at the highest level and, as always, will combine athletic and academic excellence," commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement Wednesday. "With schools stretching from coast to coast and in many of the top U.S. media markets, the Big East has become a truly national conference with outstanding young men and women competing across a full range of sports."
Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said he's not worried about UConn's future. He said if the Huskies just concentrate on winning games, everything else will work itself out.
"This is how I got to be where I am today," the Hall of Fame coach said. "I just wanted to be really good at what I was doing. And I knew, If I got really, really good at what I was doing, somebody would want me."