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UConn president Susan Herbst sent out the following letter today to Husky fans on conference realignment and the UConn memorial scholarship fund for Newtown victims:
Dear UConn Friends and Colleagues:
"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. (See link below).
"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.
"We here at UConn have incredibly powerful and compelling teams, decades of accomplishment, joyful traditions at games, and great plans in the works, such as our men's ice hockey team entering Hockey East in 2014, the top conference in the nation, and our new building projects, like the UConn Basketball Development Center.
"I know that it is difficult to read much of the internet content right now about athletics, which seems to be dominated by negativity. 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.
"I wish you could see my mail and answer my phone, to get a true sense of how dedicated and upbeat our best fans are. Far from being depressed or dragged down by negativity, they are more committed than ever before, and know that it is their very commitment that will determine our future. They know that we will be more than fine, even if there are months and maybe even years of conference uncertainty ahead.
"We still get to play and we still get to win. Our true fans and supporters so love our coaches and students, and enjoy their tremendous efforts on the field and court. That is what I appreciate, and what all university presidents hope for.
"When it comes to athletics, I normally write to you -- so often these volatile days! -- about student-athletes and our need to focus on them. Again, there is much cynicism around this topic. I cannot speak for other institutions, but here at least, focusing on our students guides what we think and what we do. We care deeply about student academic success, and the pride that we feel about all of our sports is both immense and genuine.
"So, Huskies: Let's all hang tough and please keep some perspective, as hard as it is in a time of great change. Win or lose, conference struggles or not, UConn is a research university. So if you are feeling low, just head to our university home page and glory in the amazing new faculty we are hiring at a rapid pace, our incredible student successes across disciplines, scientific awards and invention by our faculty, and all that matters most at your flagship university.
"I was hired because I'm an optimist, and I cannot help being just that. I never see the productive value in cynicism and negativity, when there is so much to be proud of. It's a tough world out there, but you can count on me to be the Number One Cheerleader for this superb place I call home. I hope to see you at many games this year - basketball, hockey, and spring sports are not too far off, despite the temperatures out there! Support our beloved university, our outstanding coaches and students, and all really will be well.
"I realize that it is difficult to have a truly happy holiday if you are at all close to Newtown or are simply touched by it, as so many are, around the world. But do please have a safe and restful break, and be thankful that we are so tightly bound to each other by this great university community.
Here's the link to the UConn memorial scholarship fund set up for Newtown school shooting victims:
Today’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal doubleheader is underway here at the XL Center in Hartford. A crowd in the 12,000-13,000 range is expected for the UConn-Tulsa game. Tip-off time is 5 p.m.