With the UConn Huskies reportedly leaving the American Athletic Conference, there are quite a bit of hot takes out there about how it will affect the UCF Knights.
So we here at Black & Gold Banneret figured we’d add to the ocean of takes in our RoundTable.
Which UCF teams win with UConn leaving and why?
Brian Murphy: I will judge this win/loss proposition on only on-field performance. I know there are lots of economics to consider with such moves, but I haven’t delved into those.
While there are other football teams in the American that will miss the relatively easy W that usually came as a result of playing UConn, UCF isn’t one of those teams. The Huskies haven’t finished a season at .500 or better since 2010, so it shouldn’t be difficult for the AAC to find a stronger program to take UConn’s place, thereby strengthening UCF’s schedule at least marginally.
It’s also a win for UCF women’s basketball, which won’t have to deal with the juggernaut that is Geno Auriemma’s Huskies. Getting UConn out of the AAC will give those Knights a better chance of making the NCAA Tournament because, although you want strong competition, having a league member that literally no one in the league can beat doesn’t help anyone.
Derek Warden: This is a win for UCF Women’s Basketball and Men’s Soccer only. For Men’s Soccer, it pretty much leaves them as one of their premier programs in the conference (based on the last couple of years’ improvements under Coach Calabrese). The WOmen’s Hoops team now has a legit chance at a conference championship, plus, The American is no longer UConn and some other teams - it has a chance to develop its own identity now.
Luke Sarris: I think football wins the most with UConn leaving. Playing them every season does nothing but hurt our strength of schedule. With them gone, hopefully that will open the door for better competition. I think women’s basketball also wins because now every AAC school will have a legitimate chance of winning a conference championship.
Jeff Sharon: There are two clear categories: Teams who lose a roadblock to success, and teams who lose dead weight on their schedule. I think Football and Volleyball fall into the latter, while both basketball programs fall into the former.
Which UCF teams lose and why?
Brian: UConn baseball is one of the more consistently successful teams in the American, having made six regionals in the past 10 years. So, its departure is a minus for UCF baseball. And I think UConn men’s basketball is going to be successful under Danny Hurley. They are still a brand name in the sport, so losing them doesn’t favor UCF or the American.
Derek: This is a loss for no one. Sorry UConn fans, your Men’s Basketball program is not what it once was. Enjoy going from being a mid-level team in The American to a mid-level team in the Big East. So, congrats, I guess?
Luke: The obvious answer here is men’s and women’s basketball. UConn really boosted the conference’s strength when it comes to those sports. Even with UConn’s men’s team having a couple of off seasons, they still won the national championship as recent as 2014.
Jeff: I want to say baseball, but not having UConn in the league anymore is one fewer competitor in an already very competitive league, plus one less lousy road trip when it’s still cold up north. So actually I think this is a wash.
Which school(s) should The American invite to take UConn’s place?
Brian: Texas! UCLA! Florida!.
I mean, what are the options? Boise State, Army, Air Force and BYU seem to be the most likely candidates. There are big travel issues with three of those choices, and then why would Army want to give up the autonomy it enjoys to schedule as it pleases?
So, you can move down the list to perhaps FAU or North Texas or Georgia State, etc. Are any of these names raising your heart rate? Invite them, sure. But I don’t believe it’s imperative for the AAC to re-gain its 12-member status. If they can’t find a worthy replacement, stay at 11 for a while. See how it goes and then re-evaluate. It’s not like you -- or any other P5/P6 conference should be clamoring for Boise State to join its ranks.
Derek: If the same TV money now gets spread around to one less school, then hold off on adding a new team...unless the new addition(s) guarantee a major money bump. However, if The American had to add a team, here are my choices:
- BYU - For its history, national fan base (‘sup, LDS-ers!), and reputation
- Boise State - This would pretty much guarantee that the NY6 auto bid goes to an AAC school every year
- Air Force - Because selfishly I want to take a fall/early winter trip to Colorado (also, their alternate unis are usually fire and I like adding another service academy to our conference)
- San Diego State - Great road game trip for fans, lock up that Cali TV market (I know...this was a joke)
All other sports (but really just Basketball):
- VCU - They’re a well-known college hoops brand and on the east coast
Luke: I would be in favor of adding schools like Florida Atlantic, Buffalo, or BYU.
Jeff: I’m in Camp Invite Nobody, at least for football, and VCU would be a highly attractive Olympic sports addition. But if you asked me to invite a football-playing school for all sports at gunpoint, Old Dominion would have a really interesting case:
- They’re a big public school (25,000 students) in a big state.
- They’d be a good travel partner for ECU in the Olympic sports (just a 2-hour drive).
- They have a strong athletic tradition with 28 national titles, including three in women’s basketball (Take THAT, UConn!).
- Even baseball is a tradition-rich program, going back to 1930 with a .573 all-time win percentage, and men’s soccer has been to the NCAAs 12 of the last 16 years.
- They’ve shown a shockingly strong commitment to their young football program, which started in 2009, and has a newly-renovated 30,000-seat stadium coming on line. They’ve sold out 63 of the 66 games in program history, including 60 straight heading into last year!
- They’re in the #44 Neilsen media market, higher than Louisville, New Orleans, Buffalo, Tulsa and Memphis.
Basically, they’re UConn, but younger, growing, and without all the baggage.
Overall is this net good, bad, or indifferent for UCF?
Brian: I imagine that people will view UConn’s exit as a positive for UCF based on football alone. But the Huskies were strong in other sports, and there is no guarantee that whichever university takes its place in the American -- again, judging by athletic performance only -- will actually be more beneficial for UCF. So, until the point if/when a new member is tabbed, I view this as a neutral move, to be determined.
Derek: Overall, this is a net positive for UCF, and the conference as a whole. I’ve already mentioned a couple reason above, but perhaps the biggest win for the conference will be an improved schedule strength for football. Truly, a perfect example of addition by subtraction.
Luke: This is probably indifferent for the conference. Good for football, bad for basketball, somewhat in between for the other sports.
Jeff: I tended to think this is a wash, but net-net, UConn was starting to become dead weight in a league that is shedding its basketball-heavy identity and transitioning to a southern, football-centric conference. So for the overall health of The American, this is going to be a net positive.