By JOHN ALTAVILLA, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
8:34 PM EDT, June 11, 2014
Geno Auriemma ended a three-hour stint as a WTIC-AM radio host Wednesday by admitting past legal action from UConn likely hindered its admission to the Atlantic Coast Conference and said only a focus on continued athletic success will help the athletic department ultimately get into a super conference.
"Just winning at football isn't enough," said Auriemma in response to a caller's question about the future of UConn's conference affiliation. "It's the interest level [in the program that's important]. It's how many fans or viewers can you bring to the conference. If [admission] was just based on the success of a university's athletic department, how do you take Rutgers over Connecticut in the Big Ten if it was just about success?
"[Super conference administrators] tell you its academics, it's this and that. It's about nothing but how many people in that area will watch the conference on television and [is the school] in an area a conference wishes to expand.
"We had some issues that prevented us from getting into the ACC; there were some things we did back in the day, like suing the conference [over the departure of Boston College]. We did a lot of dumb things that are still haunting us.
"But the only thing we can do now is this – be the best athletic program we can be, the best university we can be and win the most games we can in every sport while selling out every stadium and venue we have. That will let everyone else in the country know that whether you like us or don't like us, you are going to have to compete against us. That is the only thing we have control over."
Auriemma also touched on a number of other major topics, including his feelings about how the impending construction of a $60 million minor league baseball stadium in downtown Hartford might impact improvement to the XL Center, UConn's off-campus home.
"All I know is this: When you have the two best [college] basketball programs in America [playing in your facility] and someone were to go to the XL Center and walk around downstairs, down below where we play, and didn't know anything about who plays in that building and someone said, 'Hey, you know, the two best basketball teams in America call this place home, you would be astonished at the [amenities] that we don't have that [UConn's basketball programs] need," Auriemma said in response to another question.
"One of the problems from being from this part of the world is that you haven't been to other [arenas] to benefit from the comparison. You go to Louisville and you see what they have in their new building [The Yum! Center] or see what the University of Oregon has built. They've been able to do it. In Louisville, the town and university worked together to build a magnificent building it calls home.
"If we're going [to ask fans to drive to Hartford] then [the facility] should be a worthy one. The governor and others have discussed upgrades. I don't know that those two things [a new baseball stadium and XL upgrades] are mutually exclusive. I hope they can do both. Whether or not they can, I don't know.
"I just hope the XL Center gets what it deserves. … Everything imaginable is needed in the building to upgrade it in a way to give us the same ability to compete as other school's have."
Auriemma filled in the station's drive-time slot and worked the three hours by himself. Callers asked a number of questions about his program, including one specifically about his four freshmen, Kia Nurse, Courtney Ekmark, Sadie Edwards and Gabby Williams.
"Kia Nurse comes from a great family, is a great kid and a great basketball player," Auriemma said. "Courtney Ekmark is one of the best high school shooters I have ever seen, boys or girls. She is a phenomenal shooter and a tough individual. Sadie Edwards is the kind of player we haven't had a lot of. She can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. And Gabby Williams, who is coming off a second ACL injury, should be ready to go in a couple of weeks. She is one of the best athletes ever to come to Connecticut thanks to her Olympic high-jumping skill."
Auriemma introduced a number of other topics on his own, such as the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, the status of Second Amendment rights to carry arms and the ongoing debate about what to do about illegal immigration.
His stance about whether common citizens should be allowed to carry arms and immigration brought a few calls in objection that the Hall of Fame coach handled without rancor.
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