UConn’s Auriemma: Schools need NCAA Tournament this season

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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey sanitize their hands before an NCAA college basketball game against Providence at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Storrs, Conn. (David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma says playing an NCAA Tournament this year, at least on the men’s side, is a fiscal necessity for most schools.

The Hall of Famer was responding Monday to comments by Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, who said she believes the college basketball season will continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic because of “the almighty dollar.”

Auriemma said Mulkey is right, but he added he believes most players, coaches and school administrators also are in favor of completing the season.

“And those players that don’t want to play, don’t have to play,” he said. “And those coaches that don’t want to coach, don’t have to coach. But the reality of the situation is, if we don’t have a men’s basketball tournament for two years in a row, then a lot of things that we are used to having, you’re not going to have.”

Several schools, including Duke, Virginia and Vanderbilt, have brought their women’s seasons to an early end, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and the mental stress that comes with all the restrictions and testing teams must follow.

But Mulkey made headlines when she said Saturday night that the NCAA was continuing to have teams play because it was putting money first.

“The NCAA has to have the almighty dollar from the men’s tournament,” she said. “The almighty dollar is more important than the health and welfare of me, the players or anybody else.”

Auriemma agreed but pointed out that most schools can’t afford for the season to end.

“Maybe it’s easy if you’re at a Power Five football school and you’re making millions and millions and millions of dollars,” Auriemma said. “That’s great. But 90% of the schools in America are not in that situation. So it is about the money. And again, that’s just the reality of it.”

No. 4 UConn, which is scheduled to face Butler on Tuesday and Tennessee on Thursday, has been able to play just seven games so far this season because of coronavirus-related issues.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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