Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy made news recently by publicly declaring that Connecticut Huskies and Boston College Eagles should rekindle relations and seek to have their teams square off once again on the gridiron and hardwood.
The relationship has been frosty at best since BC left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference seven years ago. It was not improved last fall when Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced moves to the ACC. IN the wake of the move, BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo unabashedly admitted blackballing UConn as a possible candidate to join the ACC:
"We didn’t want them in," he said. "It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team."
Though DeFillipo later apologized, no one in the UConn camp is under any illusions that icy sentiments have thawed.
UConn men’s head basketball coach Jim Calhoun, a native of Braintree, Mass., who coached 14 seasons at Northeastern University in Boston before moving south to Storrs, Conn., also has drawn the line in the sand:
"We won’t play BC after they leave here. I have no desire to play Boston College. Nor for the fact that they are leaving, but how they did it. I will not play Boston College as long as I’m here [at UConn]."
Now Malloy, a BC alumnus, wants to be the peacemaker between the two universities and the respective athletic programs:
"Both schools have done and said things that need to be left in the past, and both schools need to move forward," Malloy said. "They need to move forward in what is the best interest of their schools, their student body and their athletic programs."
It may be a truly noble gesture of wanting to pit two long-established and neighboring institutions against one another in athletic competition. Without doubt, it would draw large fan bases and inspire both teams and alumni in what would be a heated rivalry.
Or it could be that, despite recent indications to the contrary, UConn still has an ambition to move to the ACC.
UConn's new president, Susan Herbst, is a Duke alumnus and previously was on faculty at Georgia Tech.
One of her first and most decisive moves as president was replacing UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway with Warde Manuel.
If this olive branch extension is a tactic or overture to get UConn back on the ACC's list of considered programs for expansion, Manuael may have a significant role to play. Having none of the baggage of his Hall of Fame basketball coach – or the many UConn fans who have nurtured animosity toward the BC program – Manuel coincidentally made contact with his counterpart, DeFilippo, at about the same time Gov. Malloy was espousing ambitions for the two school to mend fences.
Manuel admits having enjoyed a friendly relationship with DeFilppo prior to his arrival at UConn. He hopes this will cut through the bitterness that lingers:
"I know there is a history from the Big East and I am new to it," Manuel said. "We'll work through it and see how it goes."
A UConn-BC rivalry is a proverbial no-brainer. Economically, politically, geographically and constructively it makes sense.
Whatever ill will exists between the two school will only fester so long as the leadership opts to snipe and backbite. Whether it leads to renewed interest in UConn becoming part of the ACC is irrelevant. The two schools should meat on the playing fields annually and allow hard-fought athletic contests, as opposed to harsh words, be their expressions.