UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma sees departures as money grabs

Connecticut Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma reacts as they take on the Penn State Lady Lions during the first half at Gampel Pavilion. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the most successful coaches in the history of college basketball, men’s or women’s, is not at all impressed by the bold decision of the Catholic 7 schools to vote to break away from the Big East.

On Saturday, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova announced their intentions of leaving the Big East because they do not have a football teams, and the several incoming members to the league have terrible basketball programs. The school’s leaders identified the addition of Tulane as an all-sports member as basically the straw that broke the camel’s back.

However, Auriemma sees things a little differently. His school is now the only remaining charter member with a football program that is still in the Big East, and in his eyes, the Catholic 7 simply took the money and ran.

“Everyone wants to live in the place where the nine original schools of the Big East are all together and will play against each other forever. Then football became the driving vehicle. You are either at the table with the big boys or you are not,” he told reporters, according to the Hartford Courant.

“The Catholic schools did a really good thing. They stayed at the table for as long as it took them to make as much money as they could. And once they saw all the money running out, they decided to go play somewhere else,” he continued. “Had some of them managed to vote appropriately over the last 10 years, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now.”

The seven no-football schools have announced that their unanimous vote to leave the conference won’t actually take effect until June 30, 2015. The schools are thus abiding by conference bylaws stating there should be a 27-month advance notice of any intended departures.

However, if Auriemma had his way, the teams would be gone far sooner.

“I hope they all leave tomorrow.”

Of course, he acknowledged the impossibility of such a situation because the Big East has to play out the 2012-13 schedule.

“But as soon as it’s over, let them go and do what they need to do, just like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia did. West Virginia did it the right way. They said they didn’t want to be in the Big East anymore and said, ‘See you later, I’m out of here,'” he said, according to the newspaper. “I hope they all take that approach.”

The Big East has negotiated buyout fees for schools hoping to leave the conference earlier than the 27 months. However, and interestingly, conference rules do allow schools to leave as a group without being obligated to pay exit fees.

Like it or not — and Auriemma absolutely does not like it — the seven schools that have left a once-proud conference in limbo at best, and in ruins at worst, are sticking around for quite a while.

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