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Women’s soccer: Uncertainty prevades Big East

Andrew Gastelum | Monday, September 26, 2011

With all of the speculation surrounding conference realignment in college sports today, it’s easy to reflect on how the new arrangements will affect college football and college basketball.

But according to Irish coach Randy Waldrum, how the changes affect other athletic programs at the university level remain overlooked.

“People sometimes don’t understand that [realignment] affects all of the programs,” Waldrum said before his team’s road trip to South Florida and Marquette. “They see the changes and don’t realize that it changes what we do with our soccer program.”

Talks of major realignment began in the summer of 2010, when Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 for the Big 10 and Pac-10, respectively. Following Colorado, Utah left the Mountain West to head to the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12), while BYU became independent and TCU announced it will become a part of the Big East starting in 2012.

But what strikes Waldrum is the uncertainty surrounding the situation, as talks of realignment have stretched over a year with questions still looming.

“To tell you the truth, I’m tired of [the speculation],” Waldrum said. “It’s always circulating, and as a coach it’s very unsettling having been in the Big East for such a long time.”

Waldrum has experienced great success in the Big East since taking over as coach in 1999, following a three-year stint building Baylor’s women’s soccer program from scratch. In his 12 seasons as Notre Dame’s head coach, Waldrum has led the Irish (4-5-2, 1-2-1 Big East) to 11 Big East regular-season titles and seven Big East tournament championships, while taking his team to the NCAA tournament every year.

So with all of the rumors swirling, Waldrum remains uncertain regarding the future of his program and the conference, but trusts the leadership of the university.

“I would hate to see anything happen to the Big East, but I definitely trust President [John] Jenkins and [Director of Athletics] Jack Swarbrick to do what’s best for the school,” the two-time National Coach of the Year said. “But you just don’t know what’s going to happen with everything.”

The 2012 season will feature the addition of TCU to the Big East while coping with the departure of rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh. But with all of the changes, scheduling becomes an issue. According to Waldrum, programs usually receive their schedules a year or two in advance based on a school’s conference.

“It’ll be interesting heading back to Texas to face TCU, but we just don’t know how it’s going to be,” he said. “Usually we get our schedules way in advance so we can see what we have to prepare for and where we have to go, but it’s different now with everything that’s going on, and you just want it all to be done with.”

Despite the potential impact conference realignment could have on the Irish, Waldrum said that the problem has yet to cause any uncertainty or speculation among his players.

“I haven’t even heard a word of it in the locker room, and I think that is really how it should be,” he said. “It doesn’t really affect our players, and our focus is just centered on this season.”