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Football's over, the conference is falling apart, what now?

Where should UConn's focus be?


Alright...what now?

That's always the question asked after a less than ideal result has come your way. Whether it's breaking up with a girlfriend, getting axed from a job, or finding out your alma mater was just snubbed for a second time by the Paris Hilton of athletic conferences, you're inevitably left with the question...what now?

For UConn, it's not an easy answer. You can't crash conference parties. No invite means no attendance. Because Louisville so adeptly out played UConn this hand, and because the ineptitude of Paul Pasqualoni and company evidently has worse consequences than simply the offensive game of football back 30 years every Saturday, the Huskies will be on the outside of the ACC looking in for the time being. That means they are now and, in the foreseeable future, connected to the crumbling conference known as the Big East.

There isn't much UConn can do but hope for another earthquake that sends conferences scrambling again for members. That could happen tomorrow, it could happen next year, it could happen five years from now, or it could never happen again. No one knows. It's like a disease. There are no symptoms until the virus has already invaded the body and you're upchucking yesterday's lunch all over your dashboard.

So UConn is in a very weird place. They have been crystal clear in their intentions to bolt the Big East the moment anyone else comes calling yet, for now, they also need to be focused on making sure the Big East survives and (cough) thrives. Because, if the BE collapses completely, UConn would be in an even worse position than, forced to find an even lower-level conference in which to stick their sports until one day a big-boy conference comes calling.

How do you keep the door to another conference always ajar while also helping to reform your current one? I'd say we should trust in Susan Herbst and Warde Manuel to navigate that difficult terrain but...maybe not.

So what can UConn actually do?

I think it's really about choices. What does UConn want to be?

The consensus is that UConn was just shit on by the ACC because Louisville has a better football program than the Huskies. As has been pointed out now a few places, including the Courant's Jeff Jacob's column the other day, that's true only if you take a quick snapshot of the two programs, ignoring more recent history. Yes, the last two years the Cardinals have been far superior, but the last seven or so has shown the Huskies to be every bit the gridiron equal to Louisville. In fact, by the numbers, UConn's been better.

But Husky football, at this moment, is down. I happen to believe the most recent snub had a lot more to do with some politicking and poor salesmanship by the University leaders, but the state of the program certainly didn't help.
So, does UConn want to be a big-time college football program? If so, then it needs to actually invest in such a model. That means money into facilities, that means a more aggressive marketing campaign aimed at convincing a rather skeptical fanbase that UConn football is deserving of not only our full attention but also our undying loyalty, and it means hiring a dynamic coach that can both earn victories on the field and fire up the UConn community off it.

Sorry to keep harping on Pasqualoni and crew, but they stink of mediocrity. Keeping this coaching staff together sends the message that UConn is fine with being a middle-of-the-road football program content to partially fill their stands with fans who are there more for the party and less for the on-the-field results. Success in college football starts with the head coach. UConn has a flatlined program right now. They need someone with a personality, someone with a vision, and someone who can win A LOT of games.

But maybe UConn isn't that interested in such a direction. Maybe they are happy with football where it is, and aren't interested in spending the time or money to grow the program.

If so, honestly, I'm okay with that. Then let's stop pretending and focus on what made UConn a name in the first place: basketball.

The ACC, by stealing from the far more dominant Big East, has turned itself into the preminent college basketball conference in the country. There's no question about that. Yet, despite the program-a-minute defections the conference has sustained the last two years, the Big East still has a chance to be a good basketball conference. Actually, they can be really good.

UConn will still be joined by Georgetown, Villanova (I know they are down, but they'll be back), Marquette, and Cincinatti as hold overs from the "old" Big East. If St. John's could ever find a way to become relevant again (I'm actually rooting for a St. John's revival, which shows how unhealthy realignment is for a person) it would only add to the credibility of the conference, and soon-to-be new member Memphis is one of the better programs in the country, with a top-five recruiting class coming in. No, it's not nearly as good as it was with Cuse, Pitt, and Louisville, but it's still a conference that could get, what, five, even six bids to the Tourney every year?

UConn would still be playing games in MSG, still battling old foes in Nova and Gtown, and still be relevant nationally. CBS is still going to want Big East games on their schedule.

But, what happens if the conference breaks apart? What happens if the basketball-only schools decide to go splitsville (I doubt it since being associated with football essentially means free money)? What happens if the newly invited members skip out on the Big East before even coming to town, meaning not enough football-playing members in the Big East to actually make a conference?

Does UConn high-tail it out and join some jumbled Conference USA, abandoning any last semblance of basketball tradition in pursuit of football mediocrity, or does it focus on basketball, sticking to traditional Big East members and finding a home in the MAC or some place like that for football?

Look, if the ACC or Big 10 come calling sometime soon, it's all a moot point, but what if they don't? What if UConn is destined to be the best program left on the outside looking in? Afterall, UConn already resides in a state that has the destinction of being in the highest-ranked media market in the country without a professional sports team.

Then, UConn needs to decide what it is. Will it abandon what's best for basketball in the name of football dollars, or protect the brand it has ridden to great prominence over the years? If the Big East does completely crumble, what will UConn's priorities be?

Those are tough questions to have to ask, even tougher to answer, but yesterday's announcement put everything on the table.

Oh, and since Porter already covered this so perfectly in an earlier post, I'll simply add...SIGN KEVIN OLLIE TO A NEW CONTRACT, NOW!!!!!