1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

UConn and Tennessee women’s programs spar over transfer

Geno Auriemma hints that Evina Westbrook’s situation with the Vols was unhealthy.
Connecticut's Evina Westbrook, left, sits with her new teammates, unable to play as a transfer student because the NCAA denied her immediate eligibility. [STEPHEN DUNN | AP]
Published Nov. 16

The news of Evina Westbrook’s denied transfer waiver may be a few days old, but individuals from both UConn, Westbrook’s current school, and Tennessee, Westbrook’s former school, still have a lot to say about it.

Friday afternoon, UConn coach Geno Auriemma explained why he hasn’t delved into specifics surrounding Westbrook’s situation at Tennessee, which he has on multiple occasions painted as unhealthy and one that had “one of my players went through … I think there would be an investigation here.”

“I don’t feel like it’s my place to do that. It’s somebody else’s,” Auriemma said. “If Evina wants to, if anybody in her camp wants to, that’s different. I’m not going to get into any of that.”

Westbrook, who announced her decision to transfer from Tennessee in mid-April, told a reporter after Tennessee’s first-round loss in the NCAA tournament that “off-the-court stuff, steps need to be taken with our staff and just overall off the court with this team.” Other than that, she has not delved into specifics of her experience at the school, and she has not been made available to the media since her waiver’s denial.

Auriemma added that he has not discussed with Westbrook the possibility of her ‘going public’ with the circumstances surrounding her transfer.

“(If) they would say anything publicly, I don’t think it changes anything,” Auriemma said. “And if I were them, I would do the same thing, I would just say it’s over and done with. We presented our case and we lost. So, we move on. That’s all.”

Though Westbrook has remained mum, Thursday night Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer spoke publicly about the case for the first time since Westbrook’s waiver was denied, largely emphasizing that the program is looking forward.

“(Auriemma) doesn’t know me at all. I’ve never met him that I know of,” Fulmer told Zack Rickens of WVLT Knoxville. “I’m very proud of our program and what we’ve done here. We’re moving forward with Lady Vol basketball. … That’s just kind of water under the bridge and we’re looking forward.”

“I don’t know (Fulmer),” Auriemma responded on Friday. “He doesn’t know me and I don’t know him. I do know Evina met with him on a number of occasions, and then he said the first time he’s heard of (Westbrook’s concerns) was when he read about it. So somebody’s not telling the truth.”

The day after Westbrook’s waiver was initially denied, Fulmer expressed disappointment with the NCAA over the denied waiver of men’s basketball player Uros Plavsic, who transferred from Arizona State to Tennessee. Auriemma and UConn athletic director David Benedict called on Fulmer to show the same displeasure about Westbrook’s situation that he demonstrated for Plavsic’s and said that Fulmer took a neutral position on Westbrook’s waiver instead of actively supporting it.

“That’s a whole other subject,” Fulmer said when asked about his response to Plavsic’s waiver. “The NCAA needs to open their eyes, in my opinion, and look at the mess that we’re in and find some means. It’s much bigger than one or two schools, this is a national issue.”

“I wasn’t asking him to do something that no one does,” Auriemma said on Friday about calling on Fulmer to support Westbrook’s request for immediate eligibility. “But then don’t (complain) and moan when one of your kids gets denied who’s trying to come into your school.”

New Tennessee coach Kellie Harper, who was hired to replace Holly Warlick in early April, was also asked to respond to Auriemma’s comments Thursday night.

“The 12 players that I work with are bought in,” Harper said. “They play hard, they practice hard, they have good team chemistry. From my viewpoint, Tennessee is a great place to be a student athlete.”

“We have a great team and we love our coaches,” Tennessee forward Lou Brown added. “It’s a good environment for us now, for us here. That’s where our focus is now. We’re worried about now, we’re worried about what’s going on this year.”

When previously reached for comment by the Courant, Tennessee has declined to directly respond to Auriemma’s and Benedict’s claims beyond, “Tennessee wishes Evina Westbrook well. We’ve since moved on, and our program is moving forward.”


  1. Former USF players Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack talk on the sideline during a recent Bulls game at Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 12. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Don’t read much into the former USF quarterback’s refusal to discuss his former coach’s possible return to USF.
  2. USF defensive back Bentlee Sanders (20) and the rest of the returning Bulls are waiting to find out who their new coach will be. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    As athletic director Michael Kelly’s search continues, so does our Bulls bracketology.
  3. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
The University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart  gives the bulls sign while leading his football team towards the entrance of Raymond James Stadium in preparation to take on Western Carolina University in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, August 30, 2014.  JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    We know there is at least some interest between the Bulls and their former coach. While we await clarity, let’s weigh the pros and cons.
  4. Three days after announcing his dismissal of football coach Charlie Strong, USF athletic director Michael Kelly announced the school is parting ways with volleyball coach Courtney Draper. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    The former Eckerd coach reach the postseason only once in eight seasons with the Bulls
  5. A Willie Taggart return to USF wouldn't be a monumental upset. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Who emerges as the lead candidate for the Bulls vacancy from our 16-coach field?
  6. The former Bulls coach badly wants a second act in Tampa
  7. Second-year USF athletic director Michael Kelly has made it clear the Bulls' next football coach must be willing to engage the community and campaign for a new football-exclusive facility. [Times files] "BRONTE WITTPENN  | TIMES"
    Michael Kelly has made it fairly clear his next football hire must be part coach, part promoter
  8. USF athletic director Michael Kelly was the Chief Operating Officer of the College Football Playoff from 2012-18 and sat in on all of the meetings of the yearly selection committee. He needs to put that knowledge and those relationships to good use as he looks for the next up-and-coming coach to take over at USF. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    John Romano | The Bulls start off with built-in disadvantages when it comes to money and prestige. Be bold rather than safe when hiring a new football coach, Bulls.
  9. USF sophomore Xavier Castaneda (1), driving to the basket last season against East Carolina, scored a career-high 18 points in Monday's 65-55 triumph against Furman at the Yuengling Center. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] JONES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The sophomore point guard hits four 3-pointers in the Bulls’ 65-55 triumph
  10. Second-year USF athletic director Michael Kelly is seeking the fifth football coach in school history. Octavio Jones
    The Bulls’ second-year athletic director plans to move briskly to find a replacement for Charlie Strong.