Final Say: Susan Herbst
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Does the proposed expansion of the Big East strike you as a bit absurd?
Well, I was part of it, so . . . It’s one of these things where we never expected to be in this position. We’re one of the founding members of the Big East, so we love it. As one of our coaches says, “UConn has had a long-time love affair with the Big East.” It’s been good to us, so we liked it the way it was. But the truth is that with the departure of some institutions that we had to fill in. I think a lot of the conferences are finding that you can’t stick to the narrow geography any more, that you have to go far and wide to make sure that we get the kind of opponents we need, and of course, to keep our BCS qualifying bid. It’s practical, and we’ll do the best we can. Some of the institutions that we’re bringing in are for football only, so we won’t have to travel there every year, probably only every other year, or if we break up into two divisions, it’ll be only once every four years. The travel is not quite as daunting as it might look from the outside. But we’ll figure out ways to be efficient.
Does this say something about student-athletes that this has gotten so complicated?
I think the realignment doesn’t have a lot to do with the students. The realignment has to do with television contracts and BCS-qualifying bids. The students come to UConn to play competitive ball, whatever the sport is, and they go wherever the schedule tells them. The students good-naturedly try to play as hard as they can and balance it out with their school work, but they’re the drivers of the realignment.
Favorite spot on campus?
I really like the dead center of campus, for the energy. I think that most people would agree that the center of campus is right in front of Gampel—between Gampel and the library, we have a circle there that has a big UConn seal on it. That’s where all the action is. The students pass through there multiple times a day. The student bookstore is there, the library is there, the arena is there. That’s my favorite part. Being there, you really feel the energy of the university.
When you first took the job, did anyone give you any memorable advice?
Somebody on the senior faculty, who’s sort of a wise head here at the university, said that the faculty here and the university is very ambitious. He said to keep that in mind, that people are really wanting change, they want to move ahead boldly. We live in what traditionally has been a land of steady habits, but it’s just not the case in terms of our faculty culture or our most ambitious people. The advice was to respect the past, but remember that we want to move ahead boldly and quickly, not be held back by tradition. It’s a new day for us, and that’s what people want.
Have you had to adjust your wardrobe to blue and white?
Here’s one for the women in your audience: It’s very hard to find blue clothes that match exactly the UConn blue color. So that’s been a challenge. I do have a couple pieces of clothing, but they sort of seem kind of off the official UConn blue. Unless we do something about our apparel shop here, I’m going to have to stick my usual black and keep searching for the perfect blue that is really our official color.