Geno Auriemma Responds to Former Notre Dame HC Muffet McGraw's Recent UConn Comments

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2022

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT- DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Geno Auriemma of the Connecticut Huskies and head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish greet each other before the the UConn Huskies Vs Notre Dame, NCAA Women's Basketball game at the XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut. December 3, 2017 (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Muffet McGraw is retired, but the rivalry between her and Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma remains alive and well.

McGraw, who won two national titles at Notre Dame, told Kate Fagan and Jessica Smetana on the Off the Looking Glass podcast (via ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel) that ESPN was "Connecticut's network" and that the network displays a bias toward the Huskies.

Auriemma responded Monday, per the Hartford Courant's Alexa Philippou:

Alexa Philippou @alexaphilippou

Asked about Muffet McGraw's comments alleging UConn bias at ESPN: "I think the bias has something to do -- if there is any-- with the 11 national championships, which is a lot more than two [what ND won]"

Alexa Philippou @alexaphilippou

And no, Geno's not done taking shots (return fire?) at Muffet:<br><br>"I guess Muffet's bored. I guess she didn't have a whole lot to talk about. Usually when she was coaching, when she did talk, nobody listened anyway."

He proceeded to lay the sarcasm on thick:

Daniel Connolly @DanielVConnolly

Geno has twice said how Sesame Street taught him how numbers work. He isn't sure about McGraw, though.<br><br>"She did say we've won more than anybody except Tennessee. Which, again, I think she missed Sesame Street growing up. 11 is more than eight."

While Notre Dame's first title under McGraw came in 2001, her feud with Auriemma began really picking up steam when the Fighting Irish became regulars in the Final Four. They played UConn in the national semifinals or championship game in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019.

A competitive rivalry is bound to emerge between two schools standing in each other's way of a national championship. According to McGraw, the dynamic went deeper than that.

"We don’t have a relationship," she said in 2014. "I think that got lost. When we were in the same conference, I think there was a modicum of it, but I think after beating them and not feeling any respect from that, we lost something." 

With regard to her recent comments, there's no question UConn's success is a major determinant in the level of attention it receives. Winning 11 titles and having a slew of Hall of Famers walk through your doors affords you plenty of privileges and a major spotlight.

For those outside of the UConn bubble, though, McGraw was probably preaching to the choir. It's not all that different from how sports fans believe any major outlet favors sports franchises from marquee markets such as Los Angeles or New York and only wants to cover a handful of top athletes.

The scrutiny toward the influence of Auriemma and UConn is particularly evident within the context of the United States national team.

Auriemma was an assistant coach for the U.S. in the 2000 Olympics and the head coach for the 2012 and 2016 Games. 

Candace Parker told Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks in November how she thought she was omitted from the 2016 team because "I don't think Geno wanted me on the team."

Taylor Rooks @TaylorRooks

FULL CLIP: Candace Parker speaks about not having a relationship with USA Basketball, dislike between her and Geno Auriemma , and the <a href="https://twitter.com/nnekaogwumike?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nnekaogwumike</a> snub<br><br>“I don’t like him, he doesn’t like me. We don’t like each other..” <a href="https://t.co/3Z828ffarQ">pic.twitter.com/3Z828ffarQ</a>

Auriemma was no longer the coach leading up to the 2021 Summer Olympics. His position on the selection committee became a point of conversation, though, after Nneka Ogwumike wasn't selected for the final roster.

Connecticut had five alumni make the cut: Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Napheesa Collier, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi. Taurasi was a contentious inclusion because she had missed a portion of the 2021 WNBA season due to a fractured sternum.

Parker didn't call out Auriemma specifically but called the situation "bulls--t" and alluded to internal politics within USA Basketball:

Chris Williamson @CWilliamson44

Candace Parker shared her candid thoughts about Nneka being snubbed by Team USA 😳😳 via <a href="https://twitter.com/DougFeinberg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DougFeinberg</a> <a href="https://t.co/WZvvb9mrhx">pic.twitter.com/WZvvb9mrhx</a>

Auriemma brushed the criticism aside, and it's abundantly clear he's not afraid to voice his opinion about the perception of bias toward UConn.