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Chris Gedney, UConn Women’s Basketball Pioneer

[The following is a reprint of an article I wrote in 2004]

Once upon a time, there were no crowds of 10,000, no television coverage or horde of reporters. Once upon a time, there weren’t even any scholarship players. Oh, how times have changed.

The University of Connecticut has had a womens’ basketball team for 100 years, but for decades the teams were more like intramural squads than national title contenders. Enter Title IX. In 1976, the University decided it had better start offering women’s scholarships in order to comply with the new Federal regulations.

Meanwhile, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a high school basketball player named Chris Gedney was earning honors for her play in the greater Washington DC area and was named to the All-Met team. At the time, the University of Maryland was a Top 20 team in women’s basketball and Gedney approached Maryland coach Chris Weller, an acquaitance, and asked if a scholarship would be made available for her.

Weller was honest with Gedney. She suggested that the young player might get more playing time if she went to a lesser known program. Gedney’s parents had put together a package of information on their daughter and sent it to several colleges, including UConn. UConn head coach Wanda Flora set up an official visit and a scholarship was offered. When Chris Gedney accepted the scholarship offer, she became the first woman to accept as scholarship to play basketball for UConn.

Gedney, who had started playing basketball seriously in 5th grade, was ready to be a contributor and player for the Huskies. But she was surprised to find that no one at UConn really cared much about the women’s basketball team.

“We would be winning a game and then the coach would pull us and put in the reserves. We kept losing games and no one cared,” Gedney said. “The administration didn’t pay too much attention to us then.”

Gendey’s class had “2 or 3″ scholarship players, a number that would increase each year. UConn was signing some of the better players in the Northeast, players who came to the school intending to win, but the attitude of the coach and administration was the same that it had always been.

Then, in her junior year, Gedney caused, in her words, “a ruckus”. Tired of losing and tired of being coached by someone who clearly gave little attention to her players or team, Gedney, one of the co-captains, held a team meeting.

“We wanted to get in touch with the administration. We [players] were taking our team seriously and we wanted to know when the administration would take us seriously as well,” said Gedney.

The coach, Wanda Flora, responded by kicking Gedney off the team. At the time, women’s college basketball was under the auspices of the AIAW, precursor to the NCAA, and they took a very dim view of this action. Gedney was a scholarship player and had some protection under AIAW rules, rules that UConn had clearly violated. The AIAW responded by freezing post-season competition for all UConn teams.

UConn responded to the AIAW’s pressure by firing Flora and hiring Jean Balthasar as head coach. Gedney, who had been considering transferring to another school after the AIAW reinstated her scholarship, was coaxed back to the Huskies by Balthasar. The 1980-81 team, made up of essentially the same players as the previous year, had their first winning season and reached the Eastern Regionals in Balthasar’s first year, Gedney’s senior season.

Gedney played with a number of alumnae whose names still appear in the UConn record books: Cathy Bochain (1980-83), Rosemary Borsuk (1976-78), Roberta Wachtelhausen (1977-79) and Val Sirois (1978-79).

Gedney herself takes up some space in the list of top players. She is 4th on the all-time scoring average list (16.0 ppg) and 6th in rebounding average (7.9 rpg). In single season games, she is tied for first with Jamelle Elliott and Rosemary Borsuk with 25 rebounds in a single game. Gedney has three 30+ point games and two 20+ rebound games. She is currently 13th on the all-time scoring list with 1409 points in only 88 games. She was also the statistical leader for the team in points, rebounds and field goal percentage in 1979-80 and 1980-81.

Since the WNBA wasn’t an option in 1981, Gedney wasn’t sure what to do with her education major and marketing minor. At first, she worked in a fitness club and then at a sporting goods store, but they weren’t good fits.

Gedney’s brother, Tim, is a Naval officer and one of her good friends was the first woman to attend West Point. Their good experiences with the military gave Gedney the idea to speak with an Air Force recruiter. Then, in 1983, Gedney enlisted and became an airman in the Air Force.

After a year that included a few months playing in the Command level sports team (a travel team), Gedney applied for, and was accepted into Officers Training School. After graduating, OTS, Gedney became an intelligence officer for the Air Force. One of the projects she worked on was “electronic combat” in which the U.S. could battle the enemy by jamming their electronics rather than shoot at them.

On September 11, 2001 Gedney was working at the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia when the terrorists struck American targets. The people in Gedney’s office were given the job of coordinating the intelligence among Federal agencies, the military and local officials such as police, fire and rescue personnel. Gedney became the Chief of Intelligence of the Joint Force Headquarters Homeland Security. Her duties also included creating a blueprint for future coordination efforts of intelligence.

In 2004, Gedney will have served 20 years as an Air Force officer and is considering retiring. However, she would like to continue the work she does now, as a civilian.

When asked to recall her days playing basketball for UConn, Gedney says many things have changed in the last 25 years.

“If we had all of our friends and some of our family members at the games, we could get a couple hundred people,” she laughs. “We would play with water dripping into the Field House. We thought we were lucky when they made the people stop running on the track during games.”

UConn played a schedule that was mostly regional and had rivalries with teams such as St. John’s, Northeastern, New Hampshire and Vermont. Another rival was regional powerhouse Southern Connecticut State University, whose best player was Cathy Inglese (1980 grad), now coach of Boston College.

In Gedney’s junior year, the Huskies made a trip through the south to play Duke, North Carolina State, South Carolina and other teams. Unlike today’s team, though, the Huskies traveled fourth class – in the team bus.

There have been a lot of changes for the UConn women’s teams through the years. The recruiting arena is much larger. Geno Auriemma was brought in to coach in 1985 after Jean Balthasar left. Players are bigger, more athletic and more talented. But one this has not changed, and that is the players’ loyalty to the UConn program.

“My car’s license plate is UCON44 [her number at UConn]. I still go up to UConn for the alumnae weekends and whenever I’m there I pick up more UConn sweatshirts. I follow the team. In fact, when I was stationed in Norfolk, I went to the UConn-Old Dominion game. I wore my UConn sweatshirt and was not a crowd favorite, to say the least,” Gedney said.

What does she think of Geno Auriemma?

“When I played, everyone just did whatever they wanted to do. I think it would have been fun to play for Geno, where everyone knows their roles and understands just what’s expected of them,” said Gedney.

“I think he’s just great. Geno has charisma; he could sell ice to Eskimos. But what I appreciate most about him is that he makes an effort to talk to and about players who have never played for him. He makes us feel like we’re a part of the team’s history and tradition and that what we did means something to the program. He’s a very warm and genuine person.”

When asked if she would have given the WNBA a try if it had been around in 1981, Gedney laughs. “I would have like to have tried, but I just wasn’t good enough. But I’m very glad for the WNBA because if I couldn’t see Sue Bird play again, I would just die.”

A true blue UConn fan, Gedney also has strong feelings about rival Tennessee.

“I hate Tennessee. I hate Pat Summitt, not as a person but as the Tennessee coach. I hate the color orange. In fact, if I’m going to eat a piece of fruit, I’m going to have an apple instead of an orange,” said Gedney. “I have a friend who’s a Tennessee fan and whenever the teams play we make some kind of bet. I don’t care where we are in the world, I have to call her after UConn beats Tennessee.” Gedney laughs. “Seriously, it’s a cool rivalry that’s good for the programs, good for CBS and good for the fans.”

What is it about UConn that inspires such loyalty?

“I guess it sounds corny, but I liked being part of a team that worked together for a common goal, that sense of belonging. It’s what I enjoy about the military. I like feeling that I’m part of something bigger than just myself, where I can be a valuable contributor,” Gedney said.

Gedney’s value to the military and the country’s security is unequivocal, but her worth to the UConn women’s basketball program is a bit more obscure. Would UConn still be doling out scholarships grudgingly and condescending to players if Gedney and her teammates hadn’t stood up to the administration? Perhaps Huskymania would have arrived at Storrs eventually, but Gedney’s commitment to excellence certainly helped the program along. She should remembered along with all the other players who helped advance the Husky program to the top tier where it resides today.

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News Links, 1/31

UConn Will Offer Enhanced Athletic Scholarships In Fall, Courant

Football
Holman Commits To UConn, Courant

Men’s Hoops
Ollie Rips Huskies For Lackluster Performance In Cincinnati, Courant
5 UConn Men’s Lessons Learned: What A Mess … Is NIT Looming?, Courant
UConn Men’s Insider: Numbers Game All About Finding Advantage, Courant
JOE D’S NOTEBOOK: Let’s Not Sugarcoat It, WTIC
UConn is historically bad for a program coming off of a title, CBSSports

Women’s Hoops
Temple’s Cardoza Will Search For A TV Right After UConn Game, Courant
UConn Women: Piling Up The Numbers, Courant
Incarnate Word too much for Alton, The Telegraph (Napheesa Collier)

Hockey
UConn Beats Maine In Overtime, 2-1, Courant
UConn claims victory over Maine hockey team with last-second goal in overtime, BangorDailyNews

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TE Zordan Holman Commits to Huskies

@MattSchonvisky

The commits keep on coming, as Zordan Holman, a tight end from Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, has decided to play college ball with the Huskies.

This was a big one for UConn, who need some help at the position. The 6-6 all-state selection also played defensive end with the Stags, recording 6 sacks his senior season.

I’ll have much more on Holman and the rest of the class as we get closer to signing day, just 5 days from now, Wednesday, February 4th.

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News links, 1/30

Men’s Hoops
Huskies Fall To Cincinnati, 70-58, Courant
Sam Cassell Out For Four Weeks, Courant
Cincinnati 70, UConn 58: Wrapping Things Up At Fifth Third Arena, Courant
Deja vu in Cincinnati: Ollie upset with UConn’s effort in loss, Register
Huskies unable to solve Cincinnati defense, Register
Caupain sets high, gets ejected in UC win over UConn, Cincinnati.com

Women’s Hoops
Photos: Pictures: UConn Women’s Top 10 Shot Blockers, Courant
Jefferson, Stewart, Tuck a golden trio for UConn women, Register
Geno Auriemma: By the numbers, ESPN
Field is narrowed for Golden Horseshoe’s top athlete, Hamilton Scores (Kia Nurse)
Blackman can seal 7-AAA girls title with win over Riverdale, Daily News Journal (Crystal Dangerfield)
Mater Dei steps up without [Katie Lou] Samuelson, OC Varsity

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News Links, 1/29

Men’s Hoops
Cincinnati Coach Says Meeting With UConn Will Be ‘Rock Fight’, Courant
UConn at Cincinnati: Notes and Quotes From The Lobby, Courant
Capsule: UConn At Cincinnati, Courant
UConn men need win over Cincinnati in a big way, Register
Men’s basketball preview capsule — UConn at Cincinnati, Register
UConn loses reserve guard to stress fracture in right tibia, NBC Connecticut
KOCH: Clark looking for better results this time against UConn, GoBearCats
Big time: UC braces for NCAA champ UConn, Cincinnati.com

Women’s Hoops
Led By Stokes, Huskies Roll Past East Carolina, 87-32, Courant
Fever’s Goestenkors Likes What She Sees In Stokes, KML, Courant
Photos: UConn Women Vs. ECU, Courant
Hello Mo’ne, My Name Is Geno, Courant
Sun Ship Montgomery To Seattle For Little, Stricklen, Courant
Stokes’ triple-double leads UConn past East Carolina, Register
Three UConn recruits, Capital Prep’s Kiah Gillespie named McDonald’s All-Americans, Register
Brian Koonz: As UConn demolishes AAC foes, The Showdown looms closer, Post
4 TEXAS STARS, 3 UCONN RECRUITS … A MCDONALD’S ALL AMERICANS NUMBERS GAME, ESPN
MEET THE 2015 MCDONALD’S ALL AMERICANS, ESPN

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News Links 1/28

Arch Of Triumphs: At 25, Gampel’s Value To UConn Is Huge, Courant

Men’s Hoops
UConn’s Amida Brimah Finds Fouls Lessen His Impact, Courant
Blizzard not expected to affect UC-UConn game, Cincinnati.com
College: Shooters struggle to adjust to different basketballs, AP article from Fredericksburg Free Lance Star (Ryan Boatright)

Women’s Hoops
Once Again, Minutes Will Be A Premium When UConn Hosts ECU, Courant
With Stokes Leading Way, UConn Might Establish Blocks Mark, Courant
Preview Capsule: East Carolina at No. 2 UConn, Courant
5 UConn Women’s Lessons Learned: Kiah Stokes Not Getting Into Offense, CTNow
Kiah Stokes staring down Rebecca Lobo’s UConn blocks record, Register
Women’s basketball preview capsule: East Carolina at No. 2 UConn, Register

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News Links, 1/26

Men’s Hoops
Boatright Sits A Bit, Then Fires Up Huskies To Win, Courant
Photos: UConn Men vs USF, Courant
Rodney Purvis delivering in new role off bench for UConn, Register
UConn men’s notebook: Ryan Boatright turns it on after brief bench break, Register
USF falls thanks to late UConn surge, TampaBay.com
Boatright thrives in Bulls’ loss, The Oracle
Boatright scores 28 as UConn beat USF 66-53,USA Today

Women’s Hoops
KML Moves Into 10th Place All-Time In Scoring, Courant
UConn Women Continue Dominance In AAC, Beat Cincinnati, Courant
It’s Easy For Geno Auriemma To Get To Root Of Coach K’s Success, Jeff Jacobs, CT Now
Photos: UConn Women At Cincinnati, Courant
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis looking for more than just 3-pointers, Register
Women’s basketball suffers home defeat, Cincinnati News Record
UConn women win 17th straight, 96-31 over UC, AP article from Cincinnati.com

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News Links, 1/25

Football
UConn To Have Football Recruits Visit This Weekend, Courant
Pasqualoni Reportedly New DL Coach For Texans, CBS Connecticut

Men’s Hoops
With Bulls Struggling, Huskies Must Take Advantage, Courant
Capsule: South Florida At UConn Men, Courant
Men’s basketball preview capsule — South Florida at UConn, Register
UConn men hope to continue success against Orlando Antigua, South Florida, Register
Regional NBA players report, Post

Women’s Hoops
No Easy Answer For Geno When The Question Is Minutes, Courant
Sit Down, Courant
Capsule: No. 2 UConn Women At Cincinnati, Courant
Confident UConn PG Moriah Jefferson has found her shot, Register
Women’s basketball preview capsule — No. 2 UConn at Cincinnati, Register
UConn women vs. AAC, Post
Former Reed star Williams making an impact as a UConn freshman, Reno Gazette Journal
Incarnate Word wallops host Mercy 66-47 in Raatz Fence/O’Shea’s Classic, USA Today (Napheesa Collier, Geno)
Box Score: Incarnate Word 66, Mercy, Kentucky 47, St. Louis Today

Hockey
Kunnas Denied Late As BC Holds Off UConn, Courant
Ryan Fitzgerald trick fits fine with BC Eagles, Boston Herald
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hat trick spurs Eagles, Boston Globe

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News Links, 1/24

Men’s Hoops
UConn Cashes In With Pesky Defensive Approach Against UCF, CTNow.com

Women’s Hoops
Natalie Butler Biding Her Time On UConn’s Sideline, Courant
Capsule: No. 2 UConn Women At Cincinnati, Courant
Stokes Selected as Candidate for the Senior CLASS Award, UConnHuskies.com
Bearcats Welcome No.2 UConn Sunday, GoBearCats.com
9-time NCAA women’s champ UConn visits UC this weekend, Cincinnati.com
While starring for UConn women’s basketball team, home-schooled student doesn’t forget her roots, DallasNews.com

Hockey
Another Reunion For Huskies’ Cavanaugh, Courant

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News Links, 1/23

Men’s Hoops

UConn Men Snap Two-Game Skid With Win Over UCF, Courant
Men’s Notebook: Calhoun Shows What He Can Do, Courant
UConn Men’s Insider: Phil Nolan Has Knack For Being Take-Charge Guy, Courant
UConn 67, Central Florida 60: Wrapping Things Up At Gampel, Courant
Photos: UConn Men’s Basketball Vs. UCF, Courant
UConn men return home to Gampel, take down UCF, Register
UConn men’s notebook: Calhoun, Purvis get starts, spark Huskies, Register
Brian Koonz: For Huskies, victory means another rung up the ladder, Post
4 Forwards That Could Be Utah’s Next D-League Call Up, Salt City Hoops (Roscoe Smith)

Women’s Hoops
UConn Women: Auriemma Impressed With Huskies’ Unselfishness, Courant
Sun’s Ogwumike Has Surgery, Will Miss Part Of Season, Courant
Huskies Looking to Stay Sharp in Blowouts, NBC Connecticut
Triple-double for Napheesa Collier, St. Louis American (scroll down)
Blair (45) at Paterson Eastside (44) – Girls Basketball, NJ.com (Andra Espinoza-Hunter)

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