UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma has fired back at former Notre Dame women’s hoops head coach Muffet McGraw‘s comments about an ESPN bias in favor of the Huskies. Auriemma said any bias is due to the program’s 11 national championships, compared to Notre Dame’s two.
On a recent podcast McGraw said there “absolutely” is a bias and that ESPN is UConn’s network.
“Absolutely,” said McGraw, who retired after the 2020 season and now works as an analyst with the ACC Network, which is owned and operated by ESPN. “UConn has done great things, and they’ve won way more than anybody else, except Tennessee. What they’ve done has been amazing. I think people measure their team by them. When joined we the Big East, we were like, ‘We want to get to where they are. That’s what we want to be. We’re trying to emulate them.’
“But I think it goes over the top with ESPN. That is Connecticut’s network. Notre Dame has NBC, Connecticut has ESPN. That is absolutely complete bias there.”
Never one to back down, Auriemma chided his former rival for their lack of championships in comparison to UConn’s.
“I think the bias has something to do — if there is any — with the 11 national championships, which is a lot more than two,” Auriemma said on the “UConn WBB Coaches Show.” “At least I remember that on ‘Sesame Street.'”
The UConn women’s basketball program is the gold standard. They are the most successful women’s basketball program in the nation, having won a record 11 NCAA Division I national championships and a women’s record four in a row from 2013 through 2016. They’ve won over 50 conference regular season and tournament championships.
Some of the most iconic players in the history of the game are Huskies. Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart.
The Huskies are on ESPN a lot because they draw an audience. They are consistently the highest draw in women’s basketball year over year. That is a testament to their dominance.
ESPN is a cable entertainment channel that needs viewers and advertising dollars. UConn brings both in droves. It’s just smart business sense to have them on as much as possible.
McGraw likely still feels some kind of way after battling Auriemma and his Huskies all those years while she was at Notre Dame. They had some fierce battles.
UConn and Notre Dame have a series dating back to 1996, with the Huskies leading 39-13. Including eight meetings in the women’s Final Four, where Notre Dame leads 5-3; all of the Fighting Irish victories were in the national semifinals. UConn won both times the programs played in the NCAA finals, in 2014 and 2015.
Old habits die hard, and on the way to 11 national titles, Auriemma ruffled more than a few feathers. He had a legendary feud with the late great Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt, which led to the cancellation of their annual matchup.
He didn’t mince words with McGraw either, taking a dig at her coaching record.
“I just think it’s interesting when people say there’s a bias between us and ESPN,” Auriemma said. “I’m just glad we don’t go 30 years between winning championships, so maybe NBC ought to help them a little more. … Muffet is a little bit lonely and wants to talk about somebody and found an outlet and wants to talk about UConn basketball, and that’s that.”
McGraw may not have 11 national titles, but she did just fine at the helm of Notre Dame. From 1987 to 2020 she compiled a 905–272 (.769) record over 32 seasons. She led her team to nine Final Fours (1997, 2001, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019), seven championship game appearances (2001, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019), and two National Championships in 2001 and 2018.
A little spice in our sports is nice. It proves the participants care. After all these years Geno and Muffet still care.
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