For the last couple of years, UConn fans were blessed to not have to worry much about conference realignment. The Huskies happily joined the new Big East, going independent in football, and UConn finally found a place that made sense for its athletic department.
But the world is changing around us, and that may precipitate another change for UConn. In the last six months or so, conferences have once again begun poaching prized schools in pursuit of the most important goal in college sports: making shit-tons of money.
Texas and Oklahoma are bolting from the Big 12 for the SEC, which will take effect in 2025. More recently, USC and UCLA announced they would be leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten in 2024. While it’s only four of these Power Five schools (at the moment) that are officially set to move in the next few years, the ripple effect has already been enormous. The Big 12 replaced Texas and Oklahoma with UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, and BYU, who will all join in 2023.
The ACC may also be losing members. Reports have come out that Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, and Virginia are rumored to jump ship and join the SEC. That leaves (at least) four open spots in the ACC, and possibly more as other rumors continue to swirl, like a merger between the Big 12 and the remaining Pac-12.
SOURCE: North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia are all negotiating to join the SEC. ESPN is trying to void their TV deal with the ACC.— Braden Keith (@Braden_Keith) July 7, 2022
UConn, while content in Big East, may be proactive in this situation. The school has been a candidate for an ACC spot in the past, and even a watered-down ACC would present bowl ties and scheduling arrangements that would be highly beneficial for UConn’s football program while making enough money to also be a boost for the rest of the athletic department.
It also appears football coach Jim Mora is telling prospective recruits that the program is hoping to join the ACC soon.
“He explained that he has a goal of joining the ACC within the next few years,” UConn commit Jackson Harper told Anthony.
These rumors are still just that, at this point, but it seems like a very large realignment in college sports is afoot. UConn may or may not be looking to move soon, but at this point the events taking place are affecting the Husky athletic department.
Mora’s comments to recruits are really the first hint for what the school sees as the long-term solution for athletics. They also aren’t far off from athletic director David Benedict’s thoughts.
“I don’t think you can ever be comfortable,” UConn athletic director David Benedict told Hearst Media a few days ago. “The nature of the landscape of college athletics right now, I don’t think anybody is comfortable, whether it’s conference realignment or the transformation that needs to take place in the NCAA.”
“The landscape is changing in lots of different ways. You have to be cognizant of that, and try to manage it in the best way you possibly can, for whatever is best for your institution,” Benedict added.
While there are some major issues with UConn straight up joining the ACC — doing so before July 1, 2026 would cost the school $30 million — it’s possible the Huskies could end up in the ACC organically through a merger of the two conferences as a reaction to a potential Big 12/Pac-12 merger.
The combination of the leftover ACC schools, which for now includes the likes of Duke, Syracuse, Pitt, and Louisville, could rival the Big 12 as the premier basketball conference in the sport and simultaneously provide UConn football with a power conference home, without having to pay a hefty buyout fee. It’s pure conjecture and sounds crazy at first, but so does USC and UCLA joining the Big 10 and traveling coast to coast to take on Rutgers in conference play.
So buckle up folks, things could get weird. We haven’t even discussed the possibility of the SEC and Big Ten breaking off from the NCAA...