On Wednesday morning, FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein threw another log on the “CONNECTICUT TO THE BIG EAST!” fire with this report:
The Big East and UConn have had recent discussions about the Huskies joining the conference, multiple sources told FanRag Sports.
FanRag Sports reported last week that UConn had looked into joining the conference and one source confirmed on Wednesday that the Big East would take the Huskies in all sports.
The issue then for UConn would be to find a home for its football program, which wouldn’t be able to join the Big East because the doesn’t league’s participants do not have football.
“The Big East would take UConn in everything, but they need to resolve what they’re going to do with football,” one source said. “That’s the only thing that’s standing in the way of a marriage.”
Shortly after Rothstein’s report went live, Adam Zagoria got the Big East’s John Paquette on the record:
“There haven’t been any discussions,” Big East spokesman John Paquette told ZAGSBLOG on Wednesday morning.
However, Zagoria also got this quote:
One league source also told ZAGSBLOG the two sides have had talks.
“They have been exploring the possibility and there is strong mutual interest,” the source said. “As for timing, I can’t say but it’s definitely real. The biggest challenge is what do with football.”
It seems like this is on the path to an eventual reality. I can’t say that I’m 100% in favor of this, but I am coming around to thinking that this is feasible.
Last July, there was a possibility that Connecticut would be moving their football team to the Big 12, while shifting their other sports to the Big East. This would have created an imbalance in the financial backing that the Huskies had for their athletic department relative to the rest of the Big East. Obviously, that did not happen, so the situation as it currently stands has two possibilities:
- The American Athletic Conference allows Connecticut to keep their football team in the conference while allowing them to move every other sport out of the league.
- Connecticut finds a new home for the football team, likely the Sun Belt or Conference USA.
Either of these options would likely result in roughly an even financial playing field for the current 10 Big East members and Connecticut. Each team in the AAC is getting less than $2 million per year from their TV contract, while each team in the Big East is up over $4 million. If Connecticut withdraws every sport except football from the AAC, they’ll get the same football-only share that Navy gets, and if they move football to a different conference, then they’ll only get whatever much smaller sum of money that conference has to give them. It won’t create an imbalance within the Big East.
The only remaining issue then is Connecticut’s interest in pursuing a better football league. What happens when the ACC/Big Ten/SEC collapse from their current size? Conferences larger than 12 teams have not been able to survive in the long term (see also: the 16 team WAC, the 16 team Big East) for one reason or another. How long will Connecticut stay in the Big East when some brand new venture opens up and desperately needs football members? Five seconds? Six? I believe the Big East would be best served by not having a membership that’s constantly in flux over a period of time, and letting Connecticut hang around until the point where they can sail the football team into a safe harbor doesn’t seem like the best option.
So I’m not a fan of it happening.
But the other benefits are too large to ignore.
If the Big East adopts a 20 game round-robin basketball schedule to accommodate 11 teams, that would benefit each team’s scheduling. Teams would be able to not worry about booking high profile non-conference games when they have two more quality games on the slate. It would also mean one more home game with a boosted attendance with the Huskies providing a draw. UConn’s inclusion in the conference would also provide a few thousand more butts in seats for the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, given the proximity of their fans to New York City.
Connecticut would also provide women’s basketball with an iconic brand as the flagship of the conference. UConn’s men’s and women’s soccer teams were also high quality programs when they used to be in the Big East, and it wouldn’t hurt to add depth to those departments as well.
I’m not a huge fan of creating turmoil within the league’s membership, particularly with a school that’s going to be looking to bail out at the first possible opportunity. Do the benefits outweigh the potential problems? It’s definitely possible, perhaps even likely.