UConn Increases Focus on ACC

One day after Big East partners Syracuse and Pittsburgh were accepted into the Atlantic Coast Conference, officials at Connecticut were in the midst of an aggressive campaign to become either the 15th or 16th member of the ACC.

Sources said Monday that UConn president Susan Herbst is heading the effort and pursuing her contacts within the ACC. UConn coaches seem unified in backing their president. Football coach Paul Pasqualoni said on the weekly football coaches' conference call that he would like maintain UConn's rivalries with Syracuse and Pitt, adding the only way to do that would be to join the ACC.

Men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun told The Associated Press he wants to become part of the nation's best basketball conference, regardless of which conference that might be.

Here's a portion of the AP report:

Calhoun said he's always felt a loyalty to the Big East, where UConn is a charter member, but believes the school is in a position where it must now find the best fit — socially, academically and athletically.

"From a basketball standpoint, I would love to be at the most powerful conference in America," he said. Calhoun said he has consulted with University President Susan Herbst about a possible move, and believes she will do the right thing for the school.

He said UConn has had great rivalries with both Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as well as a history of great games with teams such as Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. But he stopped short of endorsing a move to the ACC.

"That decision will be made at a presidential level," he said. "I've talked to Susan about this and very simply, we need to do what's best for UConn. We need to look at where we fit best and what's the best for us."

Calhoun said he believes Connecticut would be a desirable asset to any conference because it brings two top basketball programs, a strong football program, which has an expandable stadium, a top-20 academic ranking and an ideal location.

"We sit near Fairfield county, where many of our fans are from, a bedroom community for New York City," he said. "I don't know of any other school, with the exception of St. John's, Seton Hall that has that much influence in that city, the media capital of the world."

Women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma told the AP that UConn is in contact "with everybody" and "prepared to take advantage of opportunities that make UConn able to compete at the highest levels."

Sources said UConn prefers the ACC option, but will obviously pay attention to discussions centering on a possible merger of Big East and Big 12 schools left behind by defectors. The path for Oklahoma and Texas to depart the Big 12 was cleared Monday when both schools were granted the power to choose a new conference. With Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M all expect to move as well, the Big 12 would be left with five "homeless" schools – Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim commented on the moves at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham, Ala.

"I think UConn will be in the ACC, if I had to guess," Boeheim said, according to the AP. "I think Rutgers could be. I think some people are thing of leaving. … Why would Florida State want to go to the SEC when you're in the ACC and you win banners? Doesn't make sense."

Boeheim admitted to some nostalgia after playing "St. John's for 50 years and Georgetown for 40."

"There's some heartbreak, no question about it," Boeheim said. "But it is what it is. Things do change."

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