UConn President Talks Realignment

Susan Herbst_on tuition hike

On Wednesday, a letter from UConn president Susan Herbst to Huskies fans and supporters was published to the school's website regarding conference realignment. It's excerpted below:

It is difficult to write to you about athletics or any other conventional university items in light of the Newtown tragedy. We will never understand it; hopefully there will be some healing in the future, although that seems very far off right now. I ask that you consider giving one of the greatest gifts of all to the survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary: the opportunity to attend a top research university like ours. Please make a gift to a young child, so that he or she might have the honor of being a Husky some day.

As you know, conference realignment continues at a rapid pace and UConn has new challenges we must face. I do not know when or how things will settle; no one does. There is more change to come that will reshape the landscape yet again. I assure you that the Big East presidents are both unified and optimistic, working to strengthen the conference in imaginative ways that will see us through to a bright future for our students, coaches, and fans. Commissioner Mike Aresco is an outstanding leader at an extraordinarily complex time, and our university partners represent powerful, high-quality institutions that we are proud to join with in this conference.

I realize that this is aggravating to hear, but as in all things, we can only affect what is in our control. As a result, we strive for excellence at UConn daily across all departments, something very much in our control. We stand tall at UConn and we need not beg, plead, nor despair. That is not who we are, and my reading of our university history -- from 1881 to today -- conveys the pride of every generation, in good times and bad.

There are profound concerns about the future of collegiate athletics of course. I speak often to presidents across the nation, and we are hardly alone in our worries. Even many seemingly "secure" universities are fearful of the changes to come, not only in the realm of realignment, and hope for a long-term stability that seems elusive right now.

This is no easy way to put it: UConn's in a bad way and, as Herbst notes, it's wholly out of their control. They made a play for the ACC invite that eventually went to Louisville, and with seemingly no offers in the near future, the Huskies are stuck dancing with who brought them. The ultimate bargaining chip, of course, is winning. This isn't an issue for the women's basketball team, where Geno Auriemma annually has the best team in the country, but the work is much more difficult for the men's side and the football program, where in the eyes of the decision makers, the money lies (and, really, this is all about money).

Herbst also spoke of the university's critics.

"I know that it is difficult to read much of the internet content right now about athletics, which seems to be dominated by negativity," she said. "Many bloggers, journalists, and even fans from elsewhere would like to see UConn hurt, and hence write with a cynical tone. This flip discourse is again, not in our control. The truth is that this is a top national research university with a terrific athletics program that will flourish, no matter what conference we are in and no matter what the media chatter looks like."

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