In much the same way the old saying, "A rising tide lifts all boats" applies to women's college basketball and UConn coach Geno Auriemma's desire to see it flourish, the same holds for sports at the university. Yes, the men's and women's basketball teams have had great success over the last quarter century, but Auriemma wants that success to extend to a football program that has floundered in recent years, going 10-18 under Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired last week.
With UConn sitting at 0-4 and interim coach T.J. Weist set to make his debut Saturday, Auriemma has some questions for fans. And as always, there's a message behind his words.
"Are you waiting for us to give you a reason to be passionate or is your passion going to come every Saturday, every game?" Auriemma asked, via the Hartford Courant. "And is your passion going to spill out onto the team? Or are you waiting on the team to spill the passion onto you? Well, why don't we meet halfway?"
The point: It's sports' version of the chicken-and-egg problem. Does passion result from winning or is winning a by-product of passion? Auriemma's solution: How about the football team shows some improvement and the fans show some passion and let's just see what happens?
"Obviously we're hoping for a great crowd," Weist said Thursday. "We're hoping for energy and excitement. We're hoping for the life that they've shown and the support for our players that we had obviously against Michigan."
Ah, yes, the Michigan game. Why can't every home get-together be like that?
"That Michigan game was one of the most incredible atmospheres I've been in, in a long, long, long time -- anywhere," Auriemma said. "Because of the anticipation, the energy, you could feel the crowd almost trying to will the team a victory that night, OK? If those same people came we might have beaten Towson [attendance was 30,869]. Can't say we wouldn't have. If we're going to sit here and only do that for Michigan who are we to say we deserve what some of these other people have? This is not criticism. I understand all the factors that go into it but I'm saying to myself: 'Aren't those factors the same everywhere else?'"
Auriemma continued: "[Passion] in this state. It's in our alumni. It's in our fans -- but it can't be selective. It can't be for certain games that that passion is going to be there. It wouldn't be fair if we chose, my team, to decide when we were going to play hard and when we were going to play with passion so I'm not sure that it's fair that you're going to choose when you're going to let your passion come to the game. And the people who do come? Oh, they are passionate. They do bring it. We're fortunate in that respect -- that we have that here and people know we have the most passionate fans in the country. My message is we certainly would love to have more of you guys here to put us over the top."