Herbst also said she has represented UConn athletics in discussions with "well over 15" schools "when you count presidents, athletic directors and interested others," since learning that Syracuse and Pittsburgh intend to leave the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"That's a lot of chatter," Herbst said in an interview following an on-campus ceremony and press conference to dedicate a new building. "Not to mention trying to keep up with the media. We're looking as closely as we can at all the reports."
But Herbst was unable to attend a meeting of the remaining Big East football schools Tuesday night in New York City. A spokesman for UConn said Herbst could not attend the hastily called meeting because of "a long standing campus commitment." Her chief of staff, Rachel Rubin, and acting athletic director Paul McCarthy represented UConn at the meeting.
UConn's interest in joining the ACC, should the conference decide to expand to 16 schools, has been confirmed. But that certainly isn't the only option. West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers, South Florida and Louisville are the other football schools remaining in the Big East. TCU is scheduled to enter the league in 2012.
With Texas A&M, Texas and Oklahoma expected to leave the Big 12 and leave behind Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri, there is talk of a Big East/Big 12 merger. None of that is certain but Herbst says UConn has a lot of options, based on its fan base and proximity to New York.
"There are a lot of possibilities and there is a lot of talk going on," Herbst said. "Those [Big 12] institutions are in a tough place as well . . . We've talked to a lot of institutions, some of which you've read about, and some that have not made the news. Obviously, it's really sensitive stuff for institutions."
Herbst said she thinks university presidents are being wrongly portrayed in the realignment process. She said greed is not the motivating factor.
"I will say there has been a lot of cynicism and talk about greed in the institutions, but the presidents I've talked to, not only in the Big East but far beyond, we're all trying to do the right thing for our places," she said. "Most of the presidents I talk to are thinking about student-athletes and especially about travel schedules. It's one of the issues that is not covered well enough by the media."
Herbst said the balance between class schedules and travel will be an important factor in UConn's decision. That is one of the reasons whey the ACC is appealing to UConn. Keeping the entire conference in one time zone appears to be a priority for the ACC.
"They've taken two new institutions," Herbst said. "They're probably going to sit back a little bit and think about where they are and where they're going. Nobody is going to rush them."
No firm plans or final decisions were expected from the Big East meeting in New York. There is another conference meeting scheduled for Oct. 2, when presidents from the basketball-only schools in the conference will also be in attendance.
Even while Big East officials were traveling to New York, there were further reports of invitations and rejections. West Virginia, according to CBSSports.com, applied for admission to the ACC and Southeastern Conference but was rejected by both. The Kansas City Star and The Sporting News reported that Missouri has an offer from the SEC. None of those reports were confirmed.
There also was a report that Notre Dame was instrumental in scheduling the Big East meeting Tuesday. Irish officials could not be reached for comment. Notre Dame remains the most powerful independent in college football but may ultimately face a difficult choice.
"I don't know," Herbst said when asked what Notre Dame's intentions might be. "That's a big piece. We're not sure. They're obviously a big player."
Might the Irish be ready to join a football conference?
"No comment," Herbst said.
"We would all like it to be over, but it's important," Herbst said. "At UConn our interest is in playing in the most competitive league we can, at the highest level. We also want to be with schools that are academically like us. … We need to fit in terms of academic prowess, along with athletic prowess."
UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni lamented the loss of rivalries during his weekly press conference.
"It just illustrates that people are going to do what they feel is best for them to do," Pasqualoni said. "It's all driven by the TV deals, the contracts with ESPN and the money. That's the way it is and now we have to do what we feel is best for the University of Connecticut."