Conference Realignment: UConn Slowly Backpedals, Pitino Thinks Connecticut Is Dumb

DENVER, CO - MARCH 17: Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals and the teams mascot react after a play while playing against the Morehead State Eagles during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Big East presidents are set to meet this Sunday to discuss the future of the conference. It looks like UConn president Susan Herbst found time on her calendar to show up for this one, as she goes about slowly unwinding all the bad press UConn has received in the past week from their public displays of affection towards the ACC.  

"Herbst on Wednesday assured members of the school's board of trustees that UConn is still working with the Big East, and urged them to "ignore the gossip on the national scene."

"Big East presidents have been engaged in frequent communication by phone or in person," she said. "We're committed together to make the Big East work, to make it stronger in spite of the announcement that Syracuse and Pittsburgh will leave to go to the ACC."

Damage control! It's sounding like Herbst and the UConn leadership are finally seeing the writing on the wall that the ACC isn't going to needlessly expand to a 15th program without landing another program of significant (football) value, and will instead "fall back to the Big East." And that's nice.

Meanwhile, bloggin' Rick Pitino, fresh off taking shots at Boston College's ACC title count -- Pitino does realize our two most successful non-revenue sports, hockey and sailing, don't participate in the ACC, right? -- has set his ire on UConn. Connecticut = dumb.

"I almost went to Connecticut, it was Connecticut or UMass," the Louisville coach told SNY.tv during an exclusive interview Tuesday at Hudson Catholic High School. "I remember when they were struggling to win the Yankee Conference. In all of sports, the greatest building job I've seen in my life was done at Connecticut. The Big East has taken them from a Yankee Conference school" to where they are now.

"With that being said, how can you want to leave? Why would you want to leave? My biggest mistake I made in my life is when I left Camelot [Kentucky]" to lead the Boston Celtics in 1997. "They're leaving Camelot. It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of."

[snip]

"Did you ever think that it ever crossed the mind of John Wooden to go into the Atlantic Coast Conference because they were bigger than the Pac-10 when he was winning 11 championships? Pitino asked. "Do you ever think it crossed his mind? No, when you're great winner, those things don't cross your mind.

"The only thing that crosses your mind is the ability to win a championship and carry on the great tradition you've built. And then you're going to tell me that Connecticut, which can win a BCS in football, is going to take the opportunity to try and win against Miami and those other people?"

[snip]

"They're either going to pay more money than the $5 million [exit fee] or they're staying [until 2014]," Pitino said. "That I can tell you."

He added: "It was a smart move for [Pittsburgh and Syracuse], in their minds. Syracuse and Pittsburgh's Presidents want something different. They're not taking into consideration all the alumni that Syracuse has in the area. Pitt can go if they want, but it makes no sense with Connecticut because of the unbelievable success that Connecticut has had.

"To me, with Connecticut, I think it's just a ridiculous move."

I've heard the Big East Conference called many things, but I do believe "Camelot" is a first. Let's hope for Pitino's sake that Louisville doesn't end up in a conference other than the Big East, like, say the Big 12, otherwise all these comments are going to make him look pretty foolish.

Lucky for Pitino, it looks like Kentucky may be exercising its right to veto the addition of Louisville as SEC #14. A veto ... that sounds a whole lot like a -- gasp! -- "block" on the part of UK. For shame.

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