Auriemma Blames Notre Dame

NEW YORK—UConn coach Geno Auriemma thinks that the Big East conference's realignment issues could have been solved years ago with one simple move -- Notre Dame's football team joining the league.

"They've been in our league 17 years, so how long are we going to date before we just decide this ain't working. And I'm not happy about it," Auriemma said at the conference's annual women's basketball media day Thursday. "That's not the opinion of the University of Connecticut, the Big East Conference. ... That's just Geno Auriemma's opinion."

The Irish, whose women's basketball team is picked first in the conference's preseason poll, have had all their sports in the Big East with the exception of football -- which has remained independent.

Last month, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were leaving the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. Commissioner John Marinatto said the Big East is trying to become a 12-team football league. He reiterated on Thursday that the two schools, which are contractually bound to the league for the next two seasons, will not be allowed out early.

"If Notre Dame had come in as a football and basketball school when they came in, we wouldn't have a problem. 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?" Auriemma said.

The conference's plan to get to 12 members includes Navy, Air Force and Boise State as football-only members and Central Florida, Houston and SMU for all sports, though that has not been made public by the league.

The remaining football members are Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers.

A Notre Dame spokesman declined to comment on Auriemma's remarks.

"We've got one school that holds the future of our league in the palm of their hand and they're not really that concerned about it," the UConn coach said. "They're looking out for their best interest and I don't blame them. But join us in football and then look out for your best interest. I applaud that. Every school has a right to do that. I just don't like the way we've gone about it."

While the Big East was built on basketball, Auriemma knows that expansion and conference realignment has always been driven by football.

"It doesn't matter what we think because every decision being made is being made from a football standpoint," he said.

"But 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...,'" the coach said.

2011-12 Preseason BIG EAST Coaches' Poll

1. Notre Dame (9) 219

2. Connecticut (7) 216

3. Louisville 191

4. Rutgers 176

5. Georgetown 175

6. DePaul 152

7. St. John's 145

8. Syracuse 123

9. West Virginia 108

10. USF 96

11. Marquette 92

12. Pittsburgh 62

13. Villanova 54

14. Providence 51

15. Cincinnati 38

16. Seton Hall 22

(first-place votes in parentheses)

2011-12 Preseason Awards

Preseason Player of the Year

Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame

Preseason Freshman of the Year

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team^

Bria Hartley, Connecticut

Tiffany Hayes, Connecticut

*Keisha Hampton, DePaul

*Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown

Monique Reid, Louisville

Shoni Schimmel, Louisville

Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame

Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame

Shenneika Smith, St. John's

Da'Shena Stevens, St. John's

Kayla Alexander, Syracuse

Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention

Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut

Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers

April Sykes, Rutgers

Andrea Smith, USF

* - unanimous selections

^Additional member added due to voting tie


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