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“I Love Jesus And I’m Not Even A Republican” – UConn’s Geno Auriemma, Somehow Talking About Conference Realignment
Two things you need to know about UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. One: phenomenal coach. One of the best ever, in any sport. He’s built what one could call a dynasty without exaggeration (look at the record), and for as long as he’s there, UConn will continue to be so. Two: he’s outspoken. This kind of outspokenness virtually ensures that if you’re not a UConn fan, you can’t stand the guy. He already looks like he just knows he’s better than you, and then when he does things like call out his team’s own fans for being spoiled, you think, “Yeah, I was right, this guy sounds obnoxious.”
However, Auriemma’s massive success allows him to say some things not everyone might. That’s okay – there’s a certain latitude that comes with being literally one of the best people ever at your job. And sometimes, like when Auriemma spoke today about Notre Dame’s role in the Big East – and the potential of the school to solidify the conference if it just joined for football – that latitude leads to him saying some…interesting things:
He said he didn’t blame Notre Dame, which has for decades nurtured its independence into countless millions in television revenue, for looking out for its best interest.
“But join us in football and then look out for your best interest,” Auriemma said. “If you know you, as a school, have the ability to put a whole bunch of schools at ease and have the Catholic mentality of we’re here to serve and help … I grew up Catholic, went to Catholic school all my life. I love Jesus and I’m not even a Republican.”
Emphasis ours. This gets really good the second he brings up “the Catholic mentality” – although even then, he sort of has a point in that “the Catholic mentality of we’re here to serve and help” is what schools like Notre Dame are supposed to be about, but then when it comes to the athletic side of things, it’s all about the almighty dollar. Like Geno, though, we can’t blame them for getting the most money possible, and the idea that they’d leave money on the table because of old-fashioned values in the modern environment of college athletics seems just a tad unrealistic.
But that’s just the setup. The line “I love Jesus and I’m not even a Republican” is so out-of-nowhere, so incongruous – where did the Republican thing come in? It makes so gloriously little sense that he might as well have followed it up with, “I am an alien fish! You pitiful humans will never prevail! ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY LORD ZARXAR!” then unzipped his human form, revealing a terrifying ichthyoid beast with laser-shooting fins, as the assembled media fled in horror.
In a small, small way, it’s too bad Auriemma went there and overshadowed the rest if his point – which was actually spot on. This is what he said earlier on the Notre Dame subject:
“The only thing you’re sure of is they don’t play [football] in our league and never want to play in our league,” Auriemma said. “For a lot of us, it’s a huge problem.
“They’ve been in our league something like  years. How long are we going to date before we just decide this ain’t working? I’m not happy about it. That’s not the opinion of UConn, the Big East Conference, my president, my AD. That’s just Geno Auriemma’s opinion. I’m pissed about it.”
To that, all we can say is: preach, Geno. He’s so spot-on with all of the above that it almost makes us want to like him. The prospect of this makes us uneasy, so let’s look at his best line again:
“I love Jesus and I’m not even a Republican.”
Again – this was about conference realignment. But that’s Auriemma – outspoken, unafraid…and never boring. It’s almost enough to make us tolerate him.
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