Notre Dame women's basketball: Irish, UConn women to renew rivalry
When Notre Dame and Connecticut meet in women’s basketball, action can get heated.
It can be testy off the court, too.
Hard feelings popped up during the negotiating process to get the storied series renewed, but the two powerhouses have been able to put their differences aside and get the rivalry back on track.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw told The Tribune that the series will resume next season, when the Irish host the Huskies prior to the start of conference play. Notre Dame will play at Connecticut in the 2015-2016 season.
“We’re happy that we’re going to be renewing the series,” McGraw said. “I think it’s a great game for women’s basketball. It’s a great rivalry. There is certainly a lot of interest in the game.
“The last few years have been phenomenal TV games. It’s been exciting for the basketball community in general.”
Connecticut leads the series 30-11, but the Irish had a stunning run of seven victories in eight meetings over the eight-time national champion. That stretch ended when Connecticut beat Notre Dame in last season’s Final Four.
The Irish run over the Huskies last season included the school’s first Big East Tournament championship last March on the Huskies’ home court, and a triple-overtime victory in South Bend.
One of the greatest moments in the rivalry was when the Irish rallied from 16 points down to beat Connecticut in the 2001 Final Four on the way to the national title.
Notre Dame and Connecticut met 15 times in the previous four seasons, including four times each in the previous three seasons.
When Notre Dame announced it was leaving the Big East for the ACC, and Connecticut was left to join the American Athletic Conference, the series hit a roadblock this season. Notre Dame wanted to play the Huskies, but school officials were told by UConn that there was no room on its schedule.
Notre Dame was working on renewing the rivalry with Connecticut when senior women’s administrator Deb Corum told Connecticut media earlier this month that she had reached out to the Irish, but Notre Dame was not interested in renewing the series.
That riled the Irish, who released a statement revealing that Notre Dame had, in fact, contacted Connecticut about renewing the series just days before Corum’s statement.
When the bickering subsided, the deal for the next two seasons was finally able to be worked out.
McGraw said that a date for next season’s game in South Bend has not been set yet.
“I think ESPN is involved,” McGraw said. “That’s why we can’t just pick a day. It will be before the conference season starts.”
According to McGraw, the Connecticut game adds to an already rugged non-conference schedule for the Irish. Notre Dame will host Tennessee and Michigan next season, along with a ACC/Big Ten Challenge game, and play at Michigan State, DePaul and UCLA.
“We’re going to be young next season, we’ll be very young,” McGraw said. “It will be great for us to renew the rivalry and have a great out-of-conference game against a Top 10 opponent.
“I think this game is probably more important for Connecticut than us. The conference they’re in is not as strong as the ACC.”