At UConn, talk centers around Notre Dame series

Joe Perez

Giving fans a hint of what’s to come in 2008, the UConn football team held its annual Blue-White spring game Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Field.

The game, however, was overshadowed by talk of the proposed series with Notre Dame.

There has been considerable outcry from fans and politicians who are disappointed that the speculation surrounding the series indicates a 10-year contract over a 15-year span -- with none of the games being played at the Huskies’ home stadium.

Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway said when Notre Dame approached UConn to gauge its interest, it set forth take-it-or-leave-it parameters. He said the Irish were willing to go forward with other Big East schools if the Huskies balked.

Hathaway cited Notre Dame’s pattern of playing road games not at the home stadiums of its opponents, but in major metropolitan areas, as a fundamental aspect of the deal on which Notre Dame was not willing to budge.

“We’re looking at this series to utilize this opportunity to grow our program,” he said. “This is the reason we’re doing this. We see a unique school, a unique opponent who brings forth some opportunities that no other school does. And we’d like to compete with them because we believe it does help our football program and is another benchmark.”

It was the opportunity provided by playing the sport’s most storied team and gaining a national television audience that UConn couldn’t resist, even if it meant five games at neutral sites.

Contractually, the Huskies are bound to playing all home games (a minimum of five per year) at Rentschler Field. In order to play those neutral site games, which count as home contests for UConn, the university must iron out the details with the state’s Office of Policy and Management, or OPM.

A concern the Huskies had was had they passed up playing the Fighting Irish, rival programs would use that against UConn when talking to recruits. Those are the very people UConn hopes to woo with regular meetings with Notre Dame. The Huskies want to show recruits that they can improve their regional and national appeal.

Season ticket holders and the city of East Hartford are concerned that with the games featuring the biggest opponent UConn would have ever faced being moved away from Rentschler Field, it denies them of one game and the benefit it brings to the city.

“It’s not taken away,” coach Randy Edsall said. “They’re going to have the opportunity to come see us play that wouldn’t be part of the ticket package. If they want to come to see the game, they can get a ticket to do that. We’re not going to make it where it’s part of that season ticket plan that they have to buy.”

Reach Norwich Bulletin writer Joe Perez at 425-4257 or