UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma was in Worcester, Massachusetts on Tuesday night, speaking as part of a panel on the "Evening of Excellence" program at Worcester State. And as often happens, Auriemma didn't patronize his audience by sugar-coating the truth.
When talking about Division 1 athletics, Auriemma admitted that it's not for everyone. Once you get past the allure of large crowds, and national television, the stark reality is that there's also plenty of responsibility and a lot of pressure on these student-athletes.
“I hope you take this the right way,” Auriemma said, via the Worcester Telegram. “I think you can have a better experience playing at Bentley (University) or at Amherst or at Worcester State than you can have playing at the University of Connecticut. I really believe that. …
“It’s your job,” he continued. “Somebody’s paying you $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year for you to play basketball and for that, there’s a lot expected of you and sometimes that gets in the way. That gets in the way of the enjoyment factor.”
He's right. You rarely hear the stories of the Division I athletes who give up their scholarships because of burnout. And it's not because it doesn't happen. It takes place all the time, all over the country, and it truly is a job. Interests and goals change, particularly for 18-to-22-year-olds who attend college to find out who they are.
More via the Telegram:
Auriemma said Division 1 players may not experience as much of the college life as players in lower divisions. His son, Mike, didn’t play much for Division 1 St. Joseph’s University and has enjoyed himself much more since transferring to Assumption. Mike told his father that he finally realizes there’s more to life than just basketball.
“The majority of people would have a better experience in that environment,” Auriemma said of the lower divisions.
It also takes a special coach to motivate players, many of whom question their decision to play in light of the various challenges every college student faces.
Auriemma brings his teams to Broadway shows when the Huskies are in New York. He tells his team that it must play as consistently as the performers on stage, who must be at their best every night so the audience will believe it got its money’s worth.
Auriemma doesn’t like to judge success only by wins and losses, though. “Success is, ‘Do you like getting up in the morning and enjoy going where you’re going?’ ” he said.
Like every level below big-time college basketball, Auriemma has to deal with the parents of his players. On a roster full of All Americans, only five can take the court at one time. The UConn coach says his players know who should get the playing time. “The problem is, their parents don’t know,” Auriemma said.
We suspect he has little trouble articulating his feelings to them, too.