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Calhoun Says UConn Must Find The Best Conference Fit

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(Credit:  Joe Raymond/AP Photo)

(Credit: Joe Raymond/AP Photo)

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By PAT EATON-ROBB,  Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun
says he wants Connecticut to become part of the nation’s best
basketball conference– whatever that will be.

Calhoun spoke to The Associated Press by telephone Monday about
UConn’s future following the departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh
from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Calhoun said he’s always felt a loyalty to the Big East, where
UConn is a charter member, but believes the school is in a position
where it must now find the best fit _ socially, academically and
athletically.

“From a basketball standpoint, I would love to be at the most
powerful conference in America,” he said.

Calhoun said he has consulted with University President Susan
Herbst about a possible move, and believes she will do the right
thing for the school.

He said UConn has had great rivalries with both Syracuse and
Pittsburgh, as well as a history of great games with teams such as
Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. But he stopped short of
endorsing a move to the ACC.

“That decision will be made at a presidential level,” he said.

“I’ve talked to Susan about this and very simply, we need to do
what’s best for UConn. We need to look at where we fit best and
what’s the best for us.”

Calhoun said he believes Connecticut would be a desirable asset
to any conference because it brings two top basketball programs, a
strong football program, which has an expandable stadium, a top-20
academic ranking and an ideal location.

“We sit near Fairfield county, where many of our fans are from,
a bedroom community for New York City,” he said. “I don’t know of
any other school, with the exception of St. John’s, Seton Hall that
has that much influence in that city, the media capital of the
world.”

UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni also weighed in on the
issue Monday, during the weekly Big East football coach’s
conference call. Pasqualoni, who spent 14 years coaching Syracuse
before being fired in 2004, says maintaining that northeast rivalry
should be a consideration.

“If you are going to keep that relationship with Syracuse and
try to build that long-term rivalry, and build it with Pitt, that
type of thing, then the only way evidently that would happen is if
Connecticut went to the ACC,” he said. “That’s one of the
factors. I think that’s a big factor in what you do.”

Pasqualoni said he has not had time to sit down and discuss the
possible move with top administrators, including Herbst. UConn’s
new athletic director, Paul Pendergast, does not start his job
until Oct. 1. But Pasqualoni said he doesn’t believe the
decision-making process can wait that long.

“These are things that are going to have to be discussed very
quickly, in the very near future and decisions are going to have to
be made,” he said. “We want to be in, obviously, the best
position for UConn, being in a BCS conference, and be in a
conference with teams we think we have similarities with _ a chance
to have some rivalries, a chance to develop relationships within
the conference, geographically, if that’s possible. So there’s a
lot think about.”

The Big East’s exit fee is only $5 million, and schools wanting
to leave are supposed to provide 27 months’ notice.

Herbst issued a statement on Sunday that said the school was
keeping its options open.

“The truth is that our teams will play competitive athletics at
the highest level of excellence, wherever things land, and our
central goals will be academic success and compliance, always,”
she said.

    (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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