UConn Back to Big East is Right Move...But There Will Be FB Ramifications
The talks had been going on for--years without much progress because of one reason--football.
But finally someone--most likely at Fox Sports--came up with a plan which allowed the process which is now unfolding: The University of Connecticut will return to the Big East next year as a full member.
The cheers in Storrs, which had become a remote outpost of college athletic process the past several years, could be heard as far as Madison Square Garden, where visions of UConn-Villanova, UConn-Providence, UConn-Georgetown, UConn-St. John's as a Big East tournament game once again came to life.
UConn fans can rejoice after watching futile attempts by the Huskies to move to the Big 12 and ACC over the past decade. They grudgingly accepted the compromise of a newly created American Athletic Conference in which false rivalries such as UConn-Tulane, UConn-UCF and UConn-Houston were created.
But now, as then, the elephant in the room must be recognized. What happens to UConn football? Ok, hold the laughter over a team that was 0-8 in the AAC and 1-11 overall last season and has fallen into a crater since the "glory days" of 2010 when UConn competed in the Fiesta Bowl.
The new Big East is a Catholic dominated, football-less, 10-team league that has won two national basketball championships (Villanova) in the last four years.
UConn football almost certainly will NOT be allowed to remain in the AAC as a partial member.
The choices are limited:
-- Find a league such as the Mid-American, Conference USA or the Sunbelt which will take the Huskies as a football only member.
--Drop back down to the FCS level.
--Compete as an independent.
The MAC once took UMass as a football only member, but it didn't work out. Conference USA has 14 teams and while the Sunbelt only has 10 teams, it is questionable what value UConn football would bring .
There is (perhaps delusional) chatter on the UConn campus that some kind of "independent conference'' using teams such as UConn, UMass, Army, BYU, New Mexico State and perhaps a mixture of exiles from Conference USA or the AAC (Navy?) could be formed.
But that takes strong leadership and that has been absent when the talk is of a new configuration. Lots of plans, but little sensible solutions.
If UConn does leave after next season, the football team must find eight games on its schedule to replace its AAC opponents. That will not be easy.
The upside of this for the rest of the UConn campus is that as a member of the Big East, the Huskies will have natural (and geographically close) rivals in all Big East sports.
The women's basketball program under Geno Auriemma is still a national power and the men under Danny Hurley could quickly regain traction as a national power in the Big East.
The key question which will be answered in the next several weeks is how much money did Fox put into its TV package to get the other Big East teams to allow an 11th member and split the financial pie.
The Big East did not need UConn, although adding the Huskies should increase its profile.
So from one standpoint, it is a great day for UConn athletics which was on a downward trend.
Athletic director David Benedict will now have this move as part of his legacy, which will help him get a job at a Power 5 conference. Without this move, UConn and Benedict's reputation---was treading downward.
But football and Huskie coach Randy Edsall, who is attempting to rebuild UConn football for the second time?
Good luck with that.
Don't expect Edsall to be part of an independence program, which offers lots of work and little incentives (bowls?) for success.
The smart move would be to simply pull the plug on football, but there is a faction at UConn which has put too much money in facilities (stadium, locker room) into the program to walk away.
So look for some sort of hybrid independent conference plan to reveal itself in the coming months. It will sound promising at the start, but it is not likely to get any legs.
But in the end, that won't matter either. UConn is back in the Big East which is the best news the people in Storrs have heard for years.