Pasqualoni Calls for Fast Action

Connecticut football coach Paul Pasqualoni said Monday that the news of Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East and heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference means UConn has to be working on its future alignment and "working on it now."

He also said maintaining UConn's rivalry with Syracuse should be "a big factor" in pursuing membership in the ACC and trying to become either the 15th or 16th member of the conference that has now raided the Big East twice in the past eight years.

"It's a hard thing to keep the rivalry with them," Pasqualoni said on the Big East's weekly coaches' conference call. "That's the obvious. If you're going to keep that relationship with Syracuse and try to build that rivalry and build it with Pitt, then the only way that would evidently happen is if Connecticut went to the ACC. That's one of the factors. I mean that's a big factor in what you do."

Sources indicate that UConn has had informal discussions with the ACC and that is the school's first choice because of the geographic alignment, existing rivalries, and the promise of the best basketball conference after realignment. But UConn has to keep an eye on a wide range of movers and shakers, including the Big Ten and Notre Dame.

Realistically, the ACC is the priority, followed by a merger of remaining Big East teams with teams left behind in the Big 12, should Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech all head for other conferences.

"If those remaining Big 12 teams and the remaining teams in the Big East and TCU get together, you've got a heck of a conference," Pasqualoni said. "When you look at the ratings of those teams right now, it's pretty impressive. Baylor is a heck of a team. Missouri is doing well. There are some good football teams in there – Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State, we just played."

Pasqualoni, a Connecticut native who was head coach at Syracuse from 1987-2004, said key factors in any move include how much the institutions have in common, how much travel is involved, and relationships and rivalries that can be built.

"Obviously this came on very, very quickly," he said. "We've been so busy getting ready to play football games that I haven't really had a chance to meet with any of the officials here [at UConn].

"My feeling on it would be to really assess, if in fact Syracuse and Pitt are going to the ACC, and are the Texas and Oklahoma schools going to the Pac-12, and what are the remaining [Big 12] schools going to do? What would be the landscape of, let's call it the new Big East? Does that bring in Baylor and Missouri? Can that be worked out with the remaining Big East teams? Or is there an opportunity to go to another conference?

"These are things that going to have to be discussed here very quickly, in the very near future and decisions are going to have to be made. We want to be in, obviously, the best position for UConn, being in a BCS conference. And be in a conference with teams we think we have some similarities with. A chance to have some rivalries, a chance to develop relationships within the conference, geographically, if that's possible. So there's a lot to think about."

UConn president Susan Herbst, inaugurated into her position on Friday, released a statement Sunday saying UConn would be involved in discussions with "counterparts from around the country to ensure the successful long-term future" of UConn athletics.

Complicating matters is the fact the athletic department is in a transition period from former athletic director Jeff Hathaway to interim athletic director Paul Pendergast. Originally Pendergast was supposed to begin that job Monday. That start date has been changed to Oct. 1, due to responsibilities at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, where he is president and chief development officer. But UConn officials said Pendergast has been on campus and is very involved.

"We went through this [at Syracuse] when the Big East realigned the first time," Pasqualoni said, referring to 2003. "I guess the powers to-be are going to do what they feel is in the best interest of their institution first. That's what it says. That's the message. The powers to-be at Syracuse felt as though it was in their best interest to leave the Big East and go to the ACC. The last time this happened the powers to-be at Syracuse felt it was best to stay in the big East.

"Across the board, around the country, that's what's happening – not only in the Big East, but in other conferences."

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