With Saturday morning’s news bomb, it is exceedingly likely that UConn football will have to find somewhere else to play in 2020, as the American Athletic Conference will almost definitely not allow one of the conference’s worst football programs to remain while providing no positive value elsewhere.
The Mid-American Conference and Conference USA are possibilities as a home for the Huskies. The MAC is the preferable option, partly because of geography and partly because of #MACtion, but neither are likely to shake out. Not only is UConn football bad, but each conference has an even number of members and things get weird with scheduling between divisions with an odd number.
As a result, for at least 2020, UConn may have a football team without a conference. There are certainly positives to this outcome. The university will keep its television deal with SNY and they could make money with buy games to go play in cool atmospheres like Beaver Stadium or Doak Campbell Stadium. Former rivals also could appear on a more consistent basis.
However, there is not a guaranteed payout after each year and scheduling those games can be difficult when many schools have eight or nine conference games already lined up, leaving just three or four opportunities to get on a team’s docket.
Here is what the Huskies’ schedule could look like if they decide to go the independent route in 2020.
UConn already has a contract to open the season at home against UMass on Sept. 3 in the traditional Thursday night contest before Labor Day weekend before a road trip to Illinois the following Saturday. Maine comes to East Hartford on Sept. 19, as does Indiana on Sept. 26. The rest of the schedule, which was supposed to be filled with teams from The American, is wide open.
Who Could Appear?
The most obvious candidate is Army. It’s only a 114-mile drive from Rentschler Field to Michie Stadium, the third-closest FBS school to UConn, after UMass and Boston College. As a fellow independent in this scenario, the Black Knights also need to fill 12 games on their own. According to FBSchedules.com, Army has 11 games for 2020, including an FCS opponent. If the Black Knights don’t want to play a second FCS school, this could line up well. They have open dates Oct. 31, Nov. 7 and Nov. 28, with a date with Air Force to be determined.
Buy games are going to be an important part of the equation, not only to generate money but to fill out the schedule, especially when the 2020 season begins in 15 months and many non-conference schedules are filled out years beforehand. Power 5 teams will pay the Huskies to travel to them and most likely get blown out, but the game comes with a six- or seven-figure paycheck. So that’s good.
Five Power 5 teams, including former Big East foe Virginia Tech, have a gap remaining on the schedule, though none of them have signed on to play an FCS opponent. However, Arkansas and TCU both have two empty spaces in 2020. It’s very possible that two of those teams opt to play the Huskies instead, as the quality between UConn and their local FCS squad is likely marginal, but they will get credit for playing an FBS team.
Add Virginia Tech and TCU to the schedule, which gives the Huskies seven games.
The remaining five, at least in 2020, will come from the lower tier of the Group of Five, meaning the Sun Belt, Conference USA and the MAC. Eight of those schools need a game in 2020 and two of them, Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International, require two.
FIU does not have a single game scheduled for 2021 and is projected at No. 88 in S&P+, the third-highest team of teams looking for a game in 2020, behind Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech. FIU has frequently played UMass and has made a bowl game each of the last two years. Scheduling the Panthers annually might be a good way to play a quality opponent at home.
Likewise, Southern Miss is missing an opponent in 2021, as well. At No. 74, the Golden Eagles are ranked one spot below Houston in S&P+. Playing Southern Miss each of the next two years might not bring a buzz, but it is a solid squad.
The remaining three contests would likely feature some combination of Coastal Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion, UAB, UL- Lafayette and UL-Monroe.
Louisiana Tech could be added, reuniting the Huskies with former head coach Bob Diaco, who roams the sidelines as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator. UL-Monroe and UAB also could appear, though any of those teams could make the cut.
While it would almost definitely never happen, it should be noted that UCF needs two games in 2020. Asking the Knights to come north in November would be great, but they probably won’t if they can avoid it.
The Huskies already have two Power 5 teams on the docket in September, which helps make the schedule look strong. Many of the dates, especially those with teams whose conferences have not released their schedule yet, are unclear, but putting it in some sort of order helps visualize what the Huskies could be doing in 2020.
Potential UConn 2020 Football Schedule
|UMass||September 3||Rentschler Field|
|Illinois||September 12||Champaign, IL|
|Maine||September 19||Rentschler Field|
|Indiana||September 26||Rentschler Field|
|TCU||October 3||Fort Worth, TX|
|UAB||October 17||Rentschler Field|
|Louisiana Tech||October 24||Ruston, LA|
|Army||October 31||West Point, NY|
|UL Monroe||November 7||Rentschler Field|
|Southern Miss||November 14||Hattiesburg, MS|
|Virginia Tech||November 21||Blacksburg, VA|
|Florida International||November 28||Rentschler Field|