UConn 's Auriemma calls out Notre Dame

| Friday, Oct. 21, 2011

NEW YORK — Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma wasn't keeping it to himself anymore.

The outspoken Hall of Fame coach, surrounded by a half-dozen reporters at a popular Times Square bar and grill, called out Notre Dame and its football program.

"We've got one school that holds the future of our league in the palm of their hand," he said, "and they are not really concerned about it."

The seven-time national champion coach blamed the Fighting Irish for most of the Big East's current problems, saying the Notre Dame football program could have added instant stability to the now-shifting conference.

Auriemma gave his opinion at the annual Big East Media Day, when he, like virtually every Big East coach the past two days, was asked about the state of the league and the uncertain college landscape.

Big East realignment also was the dominant topic at the men's basketball media day Wednesday, held about 20 blocks north from women's event.

"Where it goes from here, I don't think anybody knows," said Auriemma, who has won 771 games in 26 seasons. "In this whole thing, there is 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.

"That is the only thing you are sure of. They don't play (football) in our league, and they never want to play in our league. For a lot of us, that's a huge problem."

Auriemma believes Notre Dame, which joined the Big East in 1995-96 in every sport but football, should be forced to make an all-or-nothing decision.

"They have been in our league, what, (17) years," he said. "How long are we going to date before we just we decide this isn't working• I'm not happy about it.

"That's not the opinion of the University of Connecticut, the Big East Conference, my president (Susan Herbst), my AD (Paul Pendergast)," he said. "That's just Geno Auriemma's opinion. I'm (angry) about it."

Auriemma's harangue came after the Huskies failed to earn Big East preseason No. 1 honors for the first time since 2005 and only the second time since 1992-93. Notre Dame was voted No. 1 in the coaches' poll; Connecticut was No. 2. The Fighting Irish went 1-3 against UConn last season, winning in the Final Four.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said she keeps an eye on the conference movement. She prefers the current arrangement.

"We're just hoping to stay the course," McGraw said. "We love being in the Big East."

Pitt and Syracuse will leave the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and expected 2012-13 member TCU opted out of its commitment and will, instead, join the Big 12.

The Big East, which has doubled its exit fee to $10 million, is looking for possible replacements, considering Boise State, Air Force and Navy for football-only and Southern Methodist, Houston and Central Florida in all sports.

Auriemma believes the Big East would have avoided its previous shakeup if Notre Dame, which plays as an independent in football and doesn't have to share television revenue, had joined the league in football in the first place.

"If Notre Dame had come in as a football and basketball school, all in, we wouldn't have a problem," he said. "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, would we• No.

"That's just my opinion. You asked me a question, and I'm telling you an answer.

"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 of we're here to serve and help. ..."

Auriemma knows schools are looking out for self-preservation; his own university is likely to be considered for an ACC invitation if the league expands to 16 teams.

"They (Notre Dame) are looking out for their best interest," he said, "and I don't blame them. But join us in football, and then look out for your own best interests."

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