There has been an argument this week about whether or not UConn is a so-called Blue Blood program.
It’s tricker than it looks.
First, how do you define Blue Blood? The term itself comes from the Spanish term Sangre Azul. Castilians used it to indicate they had no Moorish ancestry because they had blue veins.
How it came to basketball is a bit of a mystery but it has basically been applied to schools like Duke, UNC, Kentucky, UCLA and Kansas.
There are no rules here, but as far as one can tell, it’s a vague combination of all-time wins and national championships.
Here’s a quick look at the top programs in both categories
- Kansas 2,385/four championships
- Kentucky - 2,375/eight championships
- UNC - 2,343/six championships
- Duke 2,273/five championships
- UCLA 1,986/11 championships
That would leave a few programs out. Indiana has won five national championships. Temple has none but is sixth all-time in wins.
Some people have suggested Michigan State, but the Spartans have two national championships and are 23rd in total wins - just two spots ahead of UConn.
One thing that seems to be a common factor is that each Blue Blood program has a sort of founding father, a coach that lifted that program to iconic status. Kansas, where the game started, has Phog Allen, who was there for a total for decades. The program has been consistently excellent for a very long time and it has produced phenomenal coaches like Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp, who are the founding fathers at UNC and Kentucky.
A lot of people, including CBS’s Gary Parrish for one (he recently said something about how Duke wasn’t making Final Fours in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, which is really lazy and ignorant, since the Blue Devils made three in the ‘60’s under Vic Bubas and one in ‘78 under Bill Foster) think Duke only got good when Mike Krzyzewski arrived. Not true. However, he kicked the Blue Devils into a much higher gear.
At UCLA, obviously it’s John Wooden who won seven straight national championships and 10 total.
If longevity and national championships are the standard, where does that put UConn?
Prior to Jim Calhoun’s arrival in Storrs, UConn was a solid regional power. The Huskies had four Sweet Sixteen appearances pre-Calhoun, but they were somewhat handicapped by conference affiliation. The Yankee Conference and the ECAC were hardly basketball power conferences.
The Big East was a different story.
UConn was a founding member in 1979 and in 1986, the Huskies hired Jim Calhoun from Northeastern and he proved to be a superb coach. Calhoun’s teams played beautiful basketball.
Honestly though the whole Blue Bloods thing is just stupid. Maybe we could split the difference and have two categories. Number one would be historically great and could include faded powers like Temple, Louisville, NC State and St. John’s (St. John’s won’t be faded much longer with Rick Pitino in charge).
Then we could have the current elite, which should list the five above plus UConn, Gonzaga, Arizona and Baylor, to pick a few.
What is undeniable about UConn is that since Calhoun arrived, the Huskies have been consistently excellent. There was a bit of a dip at the end of the Kevin Ollie era, but Hurley has fixed that.
In other words, if UConn is not a Blue Blood by your definition, be patient. They’re not going anywhere.