Geno, the unplugged version, on SNY move

It was after a recent column about UConn's decision to move its women's basketball telecasts to SNY that a member of the UConn athletic hierarchy sent a note here that read, "Stop beating a dead horse."

Always nice when people make the time to do their jobs and mine, too.

But I digress.

It's just that I don't consider this a dead horse. At least not until someone affiliated with UConn can explain terminating an 18-year partnership without it sounding like something that comes out of the horse's back end.

Happily, the drive to Hartford Golf Club on Tuesday was well worth the mileage.

Geno Auriemma didn't disappoint.

Auriemma, talking before he began his annual "Fore The Children" golf outing to benefit the Connecticut Children's Hospital, addressed L'Affaire SNY/CPTV with far more candor than many others at the university. His opinion matters for a number of reasons, not the least of which is this: I know that there's not much he values more than loyalty.

Full disclosure: You might not like what you're about to read. Frankly, I didn't like hearing some of it.

"We made CPTV the most watched public broadcasting station in America. And most profitable. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to pay us what they paid us," Auriemma said. "In return, they gave us a platform and exposure that no other women's team in America would get. It was such a great relationship. Because of that, an entity like SNY comes in and says we could take that and make it the women's basketball equivalent of what Notre Dame has with NBC. It's hard to say we're not going to do that."

Auriemma's analogy: "A 20-year-old kid comes up with the Kansas City Royals to play shortstop and then when he's 27 he's become the MVP and won five Gold Gloves. Then the Yankees approach him and say, 'Yo dude, want to play in Yankee Stadium?" What's the kid going to say? No, I'd rather be loyal (to the Royals?)'

"There's something to be said for that. (But) there are things that couldn't happen for us (with CPTV) that can happen in the SNY world. It's just wasn't going to be possible no matter what CPTV did. It wasn't like we're saying 'no' to CPTV and turning our back on them, with the way people want to portray it. It's 'yes' to this opportunity that comes along only because of our relationship with CPTV."

Auriemma has heard and read a number of comments about fans' potential unwillingness to upgrade their cable packages to include SNY.

"How about people bitching about how they're going to have to pay more on their cable system? Do you know how many people donated to CPTV? Twenty percent of their viewers. Eighty percent were watching the games for free in their living room," he said.

"You hear, 'I've been supporting UConn women's basketball.' Really? Did you a buy a ticket? 'No.' Contribute to the UConn athletic department? 'No.' What do you do? 'I watch on CPTV.' That's supporting UConn basketball? You get it for free. Other people have been footing the bill for you. Now you might have to buy a $4.95-a-month cable package. You're going to bitch?"

He wasn't done.

"Either come to the games or sit at home, but somebody's got to pay for us to go recruit these kids," he said. (You hear) 'you didn't get this kid, you didn't get that kid, you need new seats (in Gampel Pavilion).' Really? How do you do that? Hit the governor up for more money? Where the hell do you think we're going to get the money?'"

Auriemma's stream of consciousness was not without compassion. He said he feels for Harriet Unger, who produced UConn telecasts for CPTV. But it became about numbers, not necessarily dollar signs, he said.

"This is strictly about the exposure of UConn women's basketball. It's one million homes (CPTV) vs. 14 million (SNY)," he said.

It was here he was reminded about one of his greatest hits. When he blasts officiating during games, he often yells, "and you wonder why nobody watches this (expletive?)" So I ask: What makes him think that more exposure will lead to more viewers? If you don't care about women's basketball, why would you watch, no matter the platform?

"SNY must think the audience will be there. And part of our thinking was that we need to expand our target area, find out if the audience may be larger than we believe," he said. "SNY wants to find out how many women's basketball fans there are outside of Connecticut. I guess they have done their research. Why would they spend all this money if they didn't believe they would get a return?"

What I learned Tuesday: The New UConn is about being bigger. Just as the Yankee Conference yielded to the Big East, The New UConn is about bigger thinking, the bigger picture and bigger revenues. You may not like the stench on the train, but it's going to roll with or without you.

"If you really care about the product, you know this is a good move," he said. "If you care about your own personal little world, I can't help you. But if you care about how can you make this product better? Wait till you see the games."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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