AP Sports Writer
Jeffrey Hathaway has been here before, in the most sweet of predicaments.
The athletic director from Connecticut will be trying to follow the men’s basketball team in Glendale, Ariz., where they’re set to face Purdue on Thursday in the NCAA tournament. A win there puts the Huskies one step away from the Final Four.
That step would come Saturday night, the day before Hathaway’s unbeaten women’s team is set to play California a few thousand miles away in Trenton, N.J.
Not that he’s going to complain, leading one of a record six schools to have their men’s and women’s teams still alive after the tournaments’ first weekends.
Yes, it’s a good time to be a Boilermaker or a Husky, a Panther or a Cardinal, a Sooner or a Spartan. The number of ADs in the same situation as Hathaway surpasses the record of five set in 1998 and matched in 2000, at least since the women’s field expanded in 1994.
All of them — Purdue, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Oklahoma and Michigan State — will be trying to do what Hathaway’s teams did in 2004, when men’s coach Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma led both UConn programs to national titles. No school had done it before and none has done it since.
“A double championship, that’s in the back of our mind,” admitted UConn star Tina Charles, who helped the Huskies rout Florida in the second round Tuesday night. “But we can’t look too far ahead. We just have to handle Cal and then we’ll take a look at what comes after that.”
After that would be a game against Arizona State or Texas A&M, but one thing the Huskies no longer need to worry about is a date with fellow top seed Duke. The Blue Devils were stunned by Michigan State in one of the tournament’s biggest upsets.
So, there’s a pair of Spartans rather than a pair of Blue Devils still playing.
“With both teams in the Sweet 16, I can’t tell you how proud I am to wear a Spartan jersey,” said junior center Allyssa DeHaan, whose team plays Iowa State on Saturday in Berkeley, Calif.
The men’s team plays Kansas on Friday night, but that didn’t stop several of them — including stars Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan — from sitting under one of the baskets during the ninth-seeded women’s stunning upset of the Blue Devils at the Breslin Center.
When the final horn sounded, the guys joined thousands of fans in rushing the court, which certainly wouldn’t have been approved by coach Tom Izzo, who took in the game from a suite with football coach Mark Dantonio.
“When they came out onto the court,” said freshman forward Lykendra Johnson, “I was laughing until I couldn’t breathe anymore.”
And acting like the program hasn’t been here before. When the Michigan State men went to the Final Four in 2005, the women lost in the national championship game.
“When you take the two basketball programs, the excitement of being a final 16 team is incredible,” said Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis, who was checking on flights Wednesday that might take him from Indianapolis to California and back — twice — over the weekend.
Oklahoma has been here before, too. The women’s team lost to UConn in the 2002 title game, just a few days after the men were eliminated in the national semifinals.
The second-seeded Sooners play Syracuse on Friday night, while coach Sherri Coale’s top-seeded women play Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“Maybe the president will let us all out of school or something. You don’t know him like I do,” Coale said, jokingly. “It will be nice to share this with our men and with Coach (Jeff) Capel and the job he has done. That makes it really special.”
Capel said he and Coale had become close because she “opened her arms up to me” when he was the new guy on campus. They now talk frequently, and exchange text messages even more often.
“She makes it even more special to be able to go through this experience with a person that’s kind of like your sister,” Capel said.
While the fourth-seeded Panthers have a tall task in Oklahoma and standout center Courtney Paris, the top-seeded men’s team is a trendy pick to win it all. Pittsburgh plays Thursday night against Xavier, with the winner getting Villanova or Duke for a shot at the Final Four.
“I know at one point during the year our football team was ranked, our basketball team, and I think our women’s team was in the Top 25,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “There’s commitment to athletics, there’s support throughout the city, the university, the community.
“We really want to have a very balanced and all-encompassing athletic department.”
At least five other schools can vouch for that.
AP Sports Writers Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City, Howard Ulman in Boston, Larry Lage in East Lansing, Mich., and Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Conn., contributed to this report.