Notre Dame women’s basketball: Irish say UConn story off base

South Bend Tribune

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- When Notre Dame and Connecticut meet on the court in a women’s college basketball showdown, it’s usually a physical, elbows-flying battle.

This time, the words are flying.

Connecticut senior women’s administrator Deb Corum stated in an article written by Carl Adamec for SYU.tv on Dec. 2, that Notre Dame is not interested in playing the Huskies in the near future.

That statement has the Irish crying foul.

“We called them as recently as last Monday, the 25th of November, and left them a message saying that we’d like to schedule a game in December of next season, and never got a call back,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “I don’t know where this story came from. It’s not true.

“We want to play Connecticut. We’ve always said we wanted to play Connecticut. We said we needed to find a date, because with our schedule this year, we have a lot of returns, and we don’t have a lot of open dates, but we’re certainly willing to work with Connecticut.”

Additionally, McGraw said that Notre Dame reached out to Connecticut to schedule a game for this season as soon as the Irish found out they were leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, but Connecticut officials told the Fighting Irish staff that they did not have any room on their schedule after the Huskies joined the America Athletic Conference.

Corum, however, claimed the Irish don’t want to play the Huskies in her interview with SNY.tv’s Adamec.

“I did reach out to them and they were not interested in playing us in the near future,” Corum said about scheduling the Irish. “We kind of just left it, ‘Let’s talk for the future at a later date.’ So we have a moving process with them.

“I am hopeful. I think it’s a really great series. I think it’s good for women’s basketball and we want to try and make it happen. We would be open to neutral sites, we would be open to home-and-away, we’re pretty much open to doing anything that they would agree to. I’m hopeful that something will come together for the future but not for next year.”

Notre Dame associate athletic media relations director Chris Masters said the Irish were confused and disappointed by Corum’s statements, and issued a strongly worded statement that emphatically denied Corum’s version.

"The recent published reports that Notre Dame is not interested in playing Connecticut in the near future are completely false, extremely disappointing and, frankly, baffling.

“In fact, Notre Dame contacted Connecticut late last spring regarding a game in 2013-14, but Connecticut’s schedule was already complete. The parties agreed to resume scheduling discussions for future seasons. The recent reports were particularly disappointing in light of the fact that the coach responsible for Notre Dame’s scheduling had left a message for Connecticut’s scheduling administrator regarding a game in 2014-15 on November 25 — just seven days before the media reports regarding Notre Dame’s alleged lack of interest.

“Notre Dame's position has never once changed — we want to play Connecticut and would enjoy the opportunity to continue our series next season and beyond. We believe it's in the best interest of college basketball fans everywhere that this series continue, and we remain hopeful that Connecticut will respond affirmatively to Notre Dame regarding our recent inquiry."

It has been a storied series. The eight-time national champion Huskies lead the series 30-11, but the Irish owned a stretch of seven victories in eight meetings from the national semifinal at the Final Four in Indianapolis in 2011, to the Big East Tournament championship game on Connecticut’s home floor in Hartford last March.

Notre Dame also beat Connecticut in the 2012 Final Four, but the Huskies knocked out the Irish in the Final Four on their way to the national title last season. The Irish are 3-1 vs. Connecticut in national semifinal games. Notre Dame beat UConn in the 2001 Final Four on the way to its lone national title.

Muffet McGraw