Like a lot of UConn fans I have been following twitter obsessively over the past 72 hours looking for word on the future of the Big East, the Huskies and college sports in general. One of the things I've seen mentioned a fair amount is the 2003 lawsuit filed against defecting Big East members Boston College and Miami, and the ACC and it's been in the context of "if UConn is trying to make a move to the ACC it might have trouble because of the lawsuit."
Look, there are real reasons for the ACC not to invite UConn -- most of them revolve around the league deciding to stay a 14 teams or Notre Dame or Texas throwing them some sort of hail mary pass and showing up out of nowhere -- but that lawsuit is not one of them.
The clearest proof that that lawsuit wouldn't be a bar to entry is Pittsburgh. I get the feeling that a lot of people look back on that lawsuit and think of it as UConn suing BC. That's not what happened. Yes, the state of Connecticut (and therefore UConn) was a leader in the lawsuit, in large part because of the cost of the construction of Rentschler Field was part of the legal argument, but the bigger factor was probably that one of the most dangerous places on earth is between then-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and a TV camera. Blumenthal loved attention, and a big, splashy lawsuit was the best way to get in.
The reality of that lawsuit was that it was filed by five Big East schools (UConn, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia and, wait for it.... Virginia Tech) against Miami, BC and the ACC. UConn was arguably the leader, but the second-in-command was Pittsburgh. For instance, here's Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg back in 2003:
"This is a case that involves broken commitments, secret dealings, breaches of fiduciary responsibility, the misappropriation of conference opportunities and predatory attempts to eliminate competition."
The second thing working in UConn's favor is the players have changed.Yes, BC President Fr. William Leahy, S.J. is still around, and so is athletic director Gene DeFilippo, but if they have any personal grudges left, it's not with anyone connected to UConn. Blumenthal is gone now, off to the US Senate. The then-Governor was John Rowland, who left office, went to prison and last I heard is working on rehabilitating Waterbury. That lawsuit was filed just a few short months after Lew Perkins left UConn (he's not out of college athletics after a scandal at Kansas), and obviously his successor Jeff Hathaway has parted ways with the university. UConn's old president Philip Austin is still associated with the University, and he filled in between Michael Hogan and current president Susan Herbst, but he's not a decision maker. The point is, at least on UConn's end, everyone who was a part of that lawsuit is gone, so personality shouldn't be a bar.
The final thing in UConn's favor, and the thing that might be the most important, is the very nature of the realignment. No one seriously thinks the ACC added Pittsburgh and Syracuse because they're natural fits in the ACC's long-term dream of a 14-team conference, just like no one thinks they're looking for a 15th and 16th team for those reasons. These conference transfers are straight-up business deals. Money talks and nothing else matters. The simple truth is this: if the ACC thinks it's better off staying at 14 teams, or has an addition scenario that can make it more money without UConn, UConn isn't going to get an invitation. But if the ACC decides 16-team conferences are the way of the future, and UConn is one of the two schools that will help it make the most money, that invitation is coming, no matter who sued who eight years ago. Just ask Pittsburgh.