Hours after the seven Catholic basketball members of the Big East voted to leave the conference, the remaining football members reacted publicly. Officials from Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida proactively released statements in efforts to get out in front of the developing story.
Cincinnati Athletic Director Whit Babcock issued the following announcement:
“Conference realignment is a story that is still being told. Like our fans, students, donors and alumni, I will be glad when all of this is over. I cannot tell you how, when or where it will end, but I can tell you that UC is positively committed to competing at the highest level. I do not know the time frame for the endgame of all of this. We will not have the answers overnight.
But I do know this: now is not the time to stop moving forward or to simply give up. Last week we hired an outstanding football coach. Our men’s basketball team is undefeated and highly ranked. We have had competitive success in a number of our other sports and the academic success of our University and our student-athletes has never been stronger.
We’ve had other challenges in the past and have come out of those stronger than before. This situation will be no different. I should also add that President Ono and the University Trustees have been great partners every step of the way. We will work diligently to position UC in the most favorable light moving forward. We will continue to compete and win. We will continue to deliver on the student-athlete experience. The road may be bumpy along the way but we will survive and thrive. Now is not the time to panic, now is the time to lead.”
Connecticut President Susan Herbst released the following statement:
“The tragedy that took place in Newtown on Friday should be the focus of the thoughts of the people in Connecticut and all Husky fans this weekend.
The University of Connecticut believes that the Big East Conference will continue to be a strong and exciting conference that is comprised of highly regarded national universities.
We ask our fans to steer all passion and concern to Newtown, and we will honor those lost when we gather together as a university community for events this upcoming week.”
South Florida Athletic Director Doug Woolard conveyed the following remarks:
“The planned withdrawal of the seven Catholic institutions from the Big East conference was certainly not unexpected, and we wish them the best moving forward. The Big East model adopted in 1991 that encompassed both football and non-football playing members proved successful since its inception. This change, though, had been the subject of discussion for many years, and can now be viewed as part of the natural progression of conference realignment.
The Big East has 13 strong members moving forward together. We will have an excellent league in football, basketball and all other sports, and our programs will compete at the very highest level of intercollegiate athletics.
USF remains very well positioned for national success. As the eighth largest university in America, an incredibly rich talent base in the state of Florida and state-of-the-art athletics facilities that match or exceed those of any program in the country, there is no question USF will continue to emerge as a national force.”
Perhaps the universities foresaw the cabal of questions surely awaiting them on Monday. Perhaps they wanted to put the previous weeks behind them. Whichever reasoning they used, observers will likely accept the statements as a glass-half-full proffering intended to show a willingness to absorb the losses and move forward.