UConn-Notre Dame Series Closer to Reality

It isn't a done deal yet, but UConn is closing in a series to play football against Notre Dame. UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway was at the state capitol on Wednesday holding a joint press conference with East Hartford state representative Michael Christ to announce a "mutual understanding" that allows negotiations between UConn and Notre Dame continue.

The two schools have been in discussion for nearly two years on series of games that would substitute UConn home games at Rentschler Field in East Hartford for games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. and at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Christ and several other state politicians objected to playing UConn home games out of state. Hathaway addressed the concerns and has delivered a framework to the Connecticut legislators.

The initial was a 10 year deal, but the current deal that is being negotiated will be a six year deal starting in 2011 that would play three games in South Bend, Ind. and three in either the Boston or New York media markets.

The framework of the deal also requires that in years that UConn hosts Notre Dame out of state, the Huskies will play six home games at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. UConn also agreed to allow season ticket holders the option of buying season tickets without the Notre Dame ticket. If season ticket holders wish to buy the Notre Dame ticket, they would also get a discounted rate on the ticket. Student tickets will also be the same price as all the other games that season. There will be no Notre Dame premium on student tickets.

The Huskies will also play at Notre Dame in 2009 in what will be a separate contract. That game came about because of an open date for the Irish and is independent of the 2011 deal.

Hathaway was adamant that this was the only way for UConn to play one of college football's most storied programs. Notre Dame approached UConn two years ago about playing in the Boston and New York markets. Notre Dame coming to East Hartford was never an option.

Hathaway also said that playing Notre Dame is just something the UConn football program can't pass up.

"There is only one team and one school in America that we would make this deal with," Hathaway said. "In this one unique instance we needed to work within the parameters set by (Notre Dame)."

UConn coach Randy Edsall is on board with playing Notre Dame without a hesitation. By playing in those metro markets it is going to help create exposure for the program that it couldn't generate in East Hartford.

"It's a great fit for the football program and university," Edsall said. "We would have loved to play them at Rentschler Field, but that wasn't going to happen."

There are still details to be worked out, but a major hurdle in the deal has been cleared. All that is left is the logistics.

"Every team in America would like to play Notre Dame," Hathaway said. "They are on national television every week. They have a brand that is very strong. When you talk about college football, you talk about Notre Dame."

Edsall talks stadium expansion

Edsall all was at the state capitol for Husky Day Tuesday and he couldn't resist doing a little politicking of his own.

With questions swirling about Notre Dame's pending deal with the Huskies, Edsall was more interested in the legislature perhaps expanding 40,000 seat Rentschler Field.

"The one thing I would like the legislator to do is approve the stadium to 50,000 or 60,000," Edsall said. "That way we can bring in a Florida State (or other major BCS team). There comes a point in time to increase the size of the stadium to be more attractive."

The 40,000 seat Rentschler Field opened in 2003 at the cost of $90 million dollars. The stadium was engineered to allow expansion in future years.

Hathaway said that there was no movement or request to expand Rentschler Field, but that didn't stop Edsall from talking about it.

Edsall also discussed the Huskies' non-conference schedule. Edsall reiterated his long term wish to play Boston College, which hasn't happened since the Eagles left for the ACC. The two schools still have hard feelings over a lawsuit filed by the State of Connecticut against Boston College trying to stop the move.

"I would still like to play Boston College," Edsall said. "It's a crime that we are not playing BC."

On the topic of schedule, Edsall also mentioned that the Huskies would like to play Penn State. Any deal with another major BCS Conference team however would be a standard home-and-home deal. UConn will not accept a 2-for-1 deal.

USF game moved to Sunday night

The Huskies game at South Florida has been moved to Sunday, November 23 and will be a national broadcast on ESPN. The game will kickoff at 8:00 p.m. was originally scheduled for Saturday.

UConn already has four nationally televised games on its schedule. UConn will face Baylor at Rentschler Field on Friday, Sept. 19, at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN2. UConn travels to face Louisville at 8:00 p.m. on ESPN2 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Sept 25. UConn's season finale, Dec. 6 against Pittsburgh at Rentschler Field, will be broadcast nationally by either ESPN or ESPN2.

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