If there is a single rule you should follow when tracking conference realignment stories in college sports its this: don't believe anything until ESPN's Brett McMurphy reports it. That rule is why it made sense in the past few days to ignore twitter chatter about Maryland possible leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and it's why this afternoon it made sense to start paying attention, because McMurphy reported that the possibility of Maryland to the Big Ten was very real, and it might be happening very soon. Not only that, but Rutgers might be joining them. That report was matched by Yahoo!and though nothing is final now, it certainly seems that the landscape of college sports might radically change as soon as early next week.
Now that's all big news, but for our purposes this next paragraph from McMurphy is much, much bigger:
If these dominoes were to fall then Connecticut would emerge as the most likely candidate to fill Maryland's spot in the ACC. The ACC will be at 14 members in 2013-14 with the addition of the Big East's Pittsburgh and Syracuse and 15 in all sports except football when Notre Dame joins, which could be as early as fall 2013.
He's not the only one thinking it either. Over at Yahoo! Dan Wetzel dropped the same thought:
If the league were to attempt to replace Maryland, the most obvious and, perhaps only, expansion target would be the University of Connecticut. It is by far the most attractive candidate left on the East Coast. About the only other schools that could be on the radar are Central Florida and South Florida, and neither is realistic, according to at least one ACC source.
So yes, if UConn is ever going to move to the ACC, it seems like the moment could soon be at hand. There is obviously a lot to go throw before then, but in a way it does make sense. Adding Rutgers and Maryland will give the Big Ten more than 20 million new homes that it can put its TV network in, and that is worth a lot of money, even if their football prestige doesn't reach the Big Ten's usual standards. And, for the more conspiratorial minded, pulling Rutgers from the Big East and perhaps UConn as well would put the final nail in the conference's coffin, just as it was considering a jump from ESPN that the network would certainly want to stop in whatever way was possible.
There is still a ways to go here, but things seem to be moving fast, and, at least for the moment they appear to be headed in a UConn-friendly direction. We'll update when we know more.