Last night the Missouri curators announced that they had given their athletic director permission to "explore options" with regard to conference realignment. That could mean a lot of things -- they'll stay in the Big XII, they'll try to bribe their way into the Big Ten, or they'll join the MAC -- but what it probably means is that the Tigers are headed to the SEC and that is very, very bad news for UConn.
Why? Because as much as conference instability has left the Huskies in a tough spot, they needed even more to get to where they wanted to be. We may have spent some time talking about how UConn could waltz into the ACC if they had Notre Dame as a dancing partner, but that was always the tough way. The easiest path involved the SEC, which at 13 teams should be looking to expand to an even number. If they used their giant pile of money to lure away Virginia Tech, Florida St. or Clemson, the ACC would start looking a lot more seriously at UConn.
But now that's all ruined. If Missouri winds up in the ACC it'll bring a measure of stability to all the big conferences. The Pac-12 shut down Oklahoma, so clearly they feel comfortable where they are. The SEC has claimed they could survive at 13, so if they do go to 14 they won't exactly be in a rush to expand further. The Big 10 is off sitting in a corner printing massive piles of money from their TV network, and the ACC, with no fears of getting raided, can sit back and kick up its heels to see if Notre Dame ever comes calling (hint: they almost certainly won't).
The worst part of it all is that the Big XII is probably on the phone with TCU, West Virginia, Louisville and perhaps Cincinnati or South Florida. Where does that leave UConn? Stuck and hoping that Texas ponies up some of that sweet, sweet Longhorn network cash to keep Missouri from jumping ship.
It's not all bad for UConn though. Sure, the football program would be screwed, but there is one massive silver lining.
And that silver lining is a whole lot more time with Jim Calhoun. Calhoun had long said he'd retire after a third national championship, but he didn't. Why? There could be a lot of reasons but I'll bet you anything that Calhoun stuck around because he didn't have a proper successor in place. Tom Moore was tainted by scandal and Kevin Ollie, as promising as he may be, had worked in college basketball for exactly one season. UConn is Calhoun's baby. In its best B.C. (Before Calhoun) years the school was a solid regional power that occasionally made the tournament. Now? It's a powerhouse, and Calhoun isn't going to give that up. Don't believe me? Here's the man himself:
"We are going to play in a conference, but we're going to be in a place that's best for us. We've worked too hard to get where we are, we've worked too hard to let anyone stop us."
Calhoun is leaving UConn in one of two ways. The first option is that he's going out on his terms, with a successor hand picked and the school ensconced in a conference that makes him feel secure. The second option is that he dies. That's it.
I can't find the link now, but back when the Syracuse and Pittsburgh news broke a couple of CBS writers, including Gary Parrish, recorded a podcast talking about realignment. In it they contrasted Boeheim and Calhoun. Boehiem, they said, was a man who liked his routine and would look for retirement soon because everything was changing around him and he wouldn't approve. Calhoun, on the other hand, would see an ACC invitation as a challenge, a chance to go into Duke and beat Krzyzewski or travel to the Dean Dome and give Roy Williams a what-for, all to prove he was the top dog. Can you imagine Calhoun's reaction if he the school he built isn't invited into the epicenter of college basketball? He'll stick around on principle, just to beat as many ACC teams as he can in the tournament. Make no mistake, we may not know what UConn's conference future holds, but until we do we know who the basketball coach will be.