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Report: UConn in Talks to Join Big East

There is one major hole in the story, but the idea of UConn joining the Big East seems to be gaining steam.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Jon Rothstein is reporting on FanRag Sports that UConn and the upstart Big East conference, formed in 2013, have had discussions about a reunion of sorts.

Adding UConn would allow the Big East to expand its round-robin schedule to 20 games, a move which they believe will help with NCAA Tournament bids. UConn would also add a level of prestige which the league simply does not have in terms of national championships (4), conference titles (most regular season AND conference tournament titles in the original Big East), Final Fours (5), and players in the NBA.

It would also provide a boon for ratings, especially in the NYC market (all due respect to St. John’s and Seton Hall), so Fox should be on board.

From a pure basketball perspective, it would be great for UConn to be playing Villanova, Georgetown, and Providence twice a year instead of Tulane, East Carolina, and Directional Floridas. Travel to road games would be easier, old rivalries would be renewed, and recruiting would probably see an uptick, though it seems to be going pretty well anyway.

But there is still one major hurdle for which we have yet to hear a feasible solution.

“The Big East would take UConn in everything, but they need to resolve what they’re going to do with football,” a Rothstein source said. “That’s the only thing that’s standing in the way of a marriage.”

Well, that’s a big thing. UConn fans know better than most how football calls the shots in the business of selling broadcasting rights for amateur athletics. If you want to make the big bucks, you need to be playing football. If you want to compete nationally in basketball long-term, it would really help to be making said bucks.

Going independent in football is a difficult proposition which would not make sense financially and cause serious challenges in scheduling and recruiting. The best case scenario would be the American Athletic Conference allowing UConn to stay as a football-only member, which is tough to imagine...

Hello, Mike Aresco, this is UConn, how are you? I know we’ve been one of the lowest performing football programs since the inception of the AAC, but we’d like to leave the conference in all sports besides football and not pay an exit fee, that cool?

The other option would be to join the MAC where, again, it’s a huge leap to think they would gladly accept UConn as a football-only member. It would also remove any aspirations of hitting the ceiling for a northeast FBS football program and the likelihood of being impressive enough for a “power five” invite down the road. At that point, UConn may as well move all the way down to FCS.

Ultimately, how you feel about a move to the Big East comes down to how much you believe that a P5 opening will be available anytime within the next decade or so. If you are pessimistic about those chances, parking football in the MAC and salvaging some basketball excitement sounds great.

If you believe a conference upgrade is possible, and that the athletic investments by the school have been made with this goal in mind, football needs an acceptable home. Right now the American Athletic Conference as a full-time member is the best option.

Perhaps UConn’s leadership has realized a “power five” invite is unlikely, but more than likely this is public posturing, like that time the Big 12 pretended to be flirting with expansion. Hopefully, this is just UConn flexing its market value for the world to see.

Previous articles on this topic:

August 22, 2016 - Does UConn Need a Realignment Contingency Plan?

April 1, 2016 - UConn Should Join the Big East