There was a loud boom when the news came out yesterday that the NCAA Board of Directors passed a proposal giving the 'Power 5' schools from the Pac 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big 12 autonomy over benefits offered to student-athletes.
Quite honestly, I'm not sure a lot will change for UConn because they should be able to match whatever additional benefits those schools choose to offer. AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco has been adamant that the conference will be doing the same. It may be a problem for some, but UConn, Cincinnati, UCF, USF and some of the others should be able to hang.
The bigger issue is scheduling. It is very clear from their coverage that ESPN is pushing the idea that P5 schools only playing each other is best for college football. Because playing Indiana, Wake Forest or Kentucky is definitely tougher than anyone in the Group of Five (AAC, C-USA, MAC, SunBelt, Mountain West), right?
Well at least that's what they'll have you believe.
So get used to BYU, because the P5's newest scheduling rules and this growing perception of where scheduling power comes from are designed to keep down our program and widen the gulf between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots.'
The SEC's current scheduling arrangement has eight conference games and a required non-conference game from the Power 5. The ACC has enacted similar rules. The Pac-12 and Big 12 currently play nine conference games and the B1G will be there soon.
Top football programs simply don't have all that much to gain by signing a home-and-home series with UConn. They don't see last years close game with Michigan as proof that we can compete, but as a threat. Connecticut doesn't offer exposure to top recruits, and UConn Football doesn't have the reputation to merit scheduling respect from poll voters. But perhaps most damning is that we're just good enough to maybe pull of the upset. Our football team is in the precarious position of being too good to serve as a cupcake, but not good enough to warrant respect with regards to strength of schedule.
UCF has been experiencing the same problem, and winning the Fiesta Bowl didn't help, "We've struggled getting games with teams now [since the Fiesta Bowl]," said UCF Head Coach George O'Leary, "I've always believed you get better by playing better... They don't wan't that... they don't want to play. Don't let them tell you different."
Nobody wants to risk losing to a team from the lowly AAC, and even though the Knights play in a recruiting hotbed, Alabama would be better off playing a mediocre P-5 opponent like BC or Purdue than a team that could actually beat them from the AAC or Mountain West.
All of this means that we should be happy if we can schedule the best that the MAC and Mountain West have to offer (we've already annexed the best that C-USA have). San Diego State, Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, and Fresno State are all good programs who we need to prove ourselves against to earn that Group of Five major bowl berth.
It means we really need to get a series with Notre Dame back on the books, and agree to play them anywhere-- whether it's Fenway, Giants Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Dubai. When the series was cancelled, it was nice to see UConn showing some pride, but times have changed dramatically. With Bob Diaco's ties to the school, hopefully we can get something done.
We do have Virginia, Indiana and Illinois on the schedule in the coming years, but none of those teams are anything special-- we've beaten Virginia and Indiana before. We had Tennessee on the books, but that has been suspended indefinitely.
I do have hope though. I think our games in Yankee Stadium and Gillette will prove that we can bring a crowd to major stadiums and metro areas. Hopefully it leads to something better down the road.