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ESPN’s Andy Katz Throws A Big East Wrinkle Into The Big 12’s Expansion Discussion

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If the Big 12 takes football-only members, should the Big East open their doors to Connecticut?

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four-Oregon State vs Connecticut Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, news came out that the Atlantic Coast Conference would be getting both an on-air and a digital only ACC Network as part of their partnership with ESPN.

On Tuesday, the Big 12 announced that they unanimously approved of commissioner Bob Bowlsby proceeding with gauging the interest of other schools in joining their conference.

These two things are probably related.

A follow up report to the Big 12 announcement stated that the conference had their eye on adding two teams to get to 12 members, and possibly as large as 14 members total. That sent the speculation machine into overdrive, although given that the Big 12 has kicked this ball around the room before, the possibilities are pretty obvious. As Sports Illustrated put it:

The leaders in the clubhouse for Big 12 expansion remain BYU, Cincinnati and Connecticut. The next tier includes South Florida, Central Florida, Memphis, Colorado State, Houston, Boise State and Tulane. If the league does add four schools, there’s really no standout candidate for that fourth slot.

It’s a pair of sentences in the paragraph before that, though, that starts to create interest for you, the Marquette/Big East fan.

The biggest question going forward will be whether the Big 12 adds two schools or four schools. The next question will be if they are football-only members or all sports.

That brings us to a tweet/blog post from ESPN’s Andy Katz.

Here’s the full text from when you click the link on ESPN’s weirdo extended tweet system:

If UConn found a home for football, the Big East would seriously consider the Huskies for all other sports, according to a source with knowledge. The Big East would be a natural fit. So far the 10-team Big East only has all sports members, but doesn't offer Division I (FBS) football. UConn is in all sports in the AAC. If given the choice, the Huskies would want to be in the Big 12 in all sports. But the chances that offer ever comes is still too hard to predict now.

First, we have to point out that UConn does not have all of their sports in the AAC. They play field hockey and women’s lacrosse in the Big East already, but that’s really nitpicking. The Big East also has a number of other associate members in various sports, most notably Denver for both men’s and women’s lacrosse, but again, nitpicking.

With that out of the way, let’s address this report from Katz.

It’s dumb and bad.

Allowing UConn to park their football with the Big 12 while playing every other sport with the Big East subjects the Big East to the whims of the Big 12. No thank you.

If the Big 12 were to collapse in the future, or if one of the other 14 team conferences fell apart, thus creating a new landing pad for UConn, that would immediately throw the Big East out of whack as the Huskies bolt for a safer, more secure spot. No thank you.

This move would allow UConn to draw some kind of paycheck from the Big 12 for football while also getting their fair share of television money from Fox Sports as part of the Big East. Expansion has one of three possible options for the Big East’s payday: 1) Split the existing money into more shares, 2) merely add more money so all the schools are even (and according to the New York Times when the deal was struck in 2013, this is the case), or 3) boost each school’s share with a new agreement with Fox Sports. In any of those circumstances, the league still finds themselves with UConn getting an unfair revenue advantage, because they’re not going to agree to a lesser Big East share just because of their football team. No thank you.

On top of all of that, I’m not in favor of expansion. I like the 10 team full round robin. Expanding to 11 teams would mean two more conference games to keep that schedule or some kind of goofball lineup where you don’t play everyone twice in an 18 game system. Finding a friend for UConn and going to 12 guarantees that you don’t play everyone twice, which is even less desirable. No thank you.

There is one other possibility that should probably get mentioned. What happens if the Big 12 decides on, say, Cincinnati, Memphis, South Florida, and Central Florida? What happens if the American Athletic Conference gets gutted even further? What happens when the AAC reloads with teams even further down the pecking order and ESPN doesn’t want to pay them the admittedly low amount they’re paying them now? Does UConn realize that they’re completely boned on this football thing and pull the plug on the program? In that situation, where UConn football is eliminated, then I could be convinced to be in favor of expansion for the Big East.

Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, the school presidents, and the school athletic directors have been fairly consistent, at least publicly, on one issue: This is a basketball focused conference. Allowing UConn to keep their football team somewhere else while doing everything else in the Big East is not keeping in line with that conference-wide focus on basketball. Maybe Big East expansion is a foregone conclusion for some point down the road. It can not and should not ever include a school that has an FBS football program.