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Calhoun is irked at BC

He doesn't want to play the Eagles

NEW YORK -- If Jim Calhoun has his way, the University of Connecticut will no longer play Boston College in men's basketball after the Eagles depart the Big East to become the Atlantic Coast Conference's 12th member.

The 61-year-old UConn coach voiced his strong opposition to BC's defection from the league yesterday at the Big East's Media Day in Madison Square Garden, where Calhoun sat at a dais in the Paramount Theater adjacent to Eagles coach Al Skinner.

"I have no desire to play Boston College," said Calhoun, whose UConn Huskies were unanimously picked as the favorite to win the Big East in a preseason poll of the league's coaches. "It's not from the fact they're leaving, but how they did it. I will not play Boston College. I told [UConn athletic director] Jeff Hathaway I would not.

"Al Skinner is one of my favorite coaches in the league, because I've known Al since he was a player [at the University of Massachusetts]. But we won't play Boston College."

St. John's coach Mike Jarvis, a native of Cambridge, Mass., who previously coached at Boston University, did not necessarily share Calhoun's sentiment. Providence College coach Tim Welsh also expressed a desire to continue playing BC.

"My mother lives in Waltham, so I would probably come home to see my mom," Jarvis said, "but I don't know what we'll do. I haven't even thought that far down the road.

"As a Big East guy, it strikes me as being strange, very strange, to lose Boston College, one of the founding members of the Big East. But I can't blame them. I have tremendous respect for the athletic director and the school, but with all the money right now in football . . . I just feel bad for all the other sports who are going to have to travel all over the damn country because of football, but that's where we're heading -- and not just in Boston, but everywhere."

For Skinner, a native of Mount Vernon, N.Y., who recalled as a boy going to Yankee Stadium with his father to watch the NFL Giants, leaving the Big East brought its own lament. "For me, being a Northeast guy, being a New York guy, I've known a lot of the coaches and have known them for a long time, so, of course, I'm going to miss it from a personal standpoint," he said. "But this is going to be a new challenge."

The only thing that caused Skinner, whose Eagles were picked to finish eighth, any consternation was the apparent slight of sophomore forward Craig Smith, who was selected an all-preseason second-team selection by the coaches. Asked if he would like to see BC maintain any of its Big East rivalries, Skinner said, "Obviously, the ones that are in the New England area would be the ones we'd like to keep, but we have to see what happens."

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, meanwhile, said the league was prepared to rebound from its loss of Miami, Virginia Tech, and BC to the ACC. Tranghese yesterday confirmed the league's presidents planned to meet here Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt hotel to formally vote on expansion to 16 teams and introduce its five new members: Cincinnati, Louisville, DePaul, Marquette, and South Florida.

"From a basketball perspective, it's going to be a pretty interesting place to play," Tranghese said of the league's new 16-team structure. "A tough place to play."

And even tougher, it seems, for the ACC-bound Eagles.

Asked if there was a timetable for BC's exit from the conference, Skinner said, "From my own personal standpoint, the sooner the better." BC's withdrawal, though, could prove to be protracted after the school filed a declaratory judgment action against the league in Massachusetts Superior Court seeking an impartial decision on whether it owed a $1 million or $5 million withdrawal fee.

While BC claimed the move to the ACC secured its future, Calhoun was particularly upset with the way BC officials acted in the aftermath of the school's initial courtship, subsequent rejection in June, and, ultimately, its reconsideration and acceptance of an ACC invite Oct. 12, a little less than a month before the Big East planned to unveil its own expansion plans.

"I understood the first time," said Calhoun. "But when you come back and say you're going to help make the Big East stronger, I don't understand the second time. Once again, if Al calls me and asks me [for a game], I'd do anything in the world for Al. He's a special guy. But it certainly says how I feel about that particular situation. I do think that loyalty is a big thing."

Calhoun said he wrote letters to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and AD Jake Crouthamel that "applauded" them for their commitment to the league. "We all know they had oppportunities [to leave]," Calhoun said. "Once [the ACC] said no, they couldn't be convinced into going back [into the ACC mix]. I'm glad they stuck to that."

A Braintree native and self-described "Boston guy" who coached for 14 seasons at Northeastern before taking over at UConn in 1986-87, Calhoun said BC's decision struck a chord. So much so, he is willing to let the long-standing rivalry go by the wayside.

"It's a real sadness if we don't have a Big East team in Boston, because one belongs there," Calhoun said. "I've always said it helped me at Northeastern when BC got into the Big East. We formed a league and that's how we got to six NCAA tournaments [at NU], because of the Big East and BC going to the Big East. So what it did for the city of Boston and college basketball-wise was phenomenal and they should always be credited for doing that, but now there's a bit of a void in a major, major city, in my opinion.

"They'll say there's no void and that we're bringing in all kinds of people, and that's fine. But I'm an Eastern guy and I think they've always been sitting [at the table] in our league as a welcomed founding member, but they have now chosen to go to a Southern dinner, I guess you could say now."

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