The University of Connecticut is leaving the American Athletic Conference and joining the Big East, according to Digital Sports Desk and backed up by multiple reports on Saturday.
Big East basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden will have that certain “UConn” buzz to it once again when busloads of fans from Connecticut are enjoying March Madness at The World’s Most Famous Arena. - https://t.co/Lqe1nySVZV— DigitalSportsDesk (@DigSportsDesk) June 22, 2019
UConn has not confirmed this, nor has The American, but the smoke from this fire is choking people outside the building.
So what do we know about this? And how does it affect the UCF Knights’ programs, if at all? Let’s answer some FAQs.
Because UConn doesn’t like being in The American. The UConn Twitterverse has complained about The American nonstop for years since the Big East split up.
UConn has always fashioned itself as a basketball school, and that’s true. But unlike other basketball schools that also play football - think Syracuse, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc. - UConn has a relatively nondescript, if long, football history. The Huskies have played football since 1896, but joined FBS in 2000. They made the I-AA playoffs only once in their history (2000), and since joining FBS, have been to six bowl games (including one BCS game in 2010), won the Big East twice, and never won more than 9 games in a season.
Plus, as Matt Brown rightly points out, The American’s new TV deal with ESPN would have killed their sweetheart third-tier rights deal with SNY. This annoyed UConn so profoundly that their administration openly criticized it - a rare step indeed.
Where are they going?
The Big East, with all those Catholic schools they used to play basketball against. They’d be the only public, non-religious school in the conference.
What about football?
What we know is UConn football is going...somewhere. Possibly a new conference, possibly an independent, but we don’t know.
Dennis Dodd of CBS had some interesting bits, namely that a source told him that The American is not willing to allow UConn to stick around as a football-only member:
UConn FB update: UConn will NOT be allowed to stay in the AAC as a football-only member. AAC's new $1 billion rights deal with ESPN will not be negated with loss of UConn. But language exists allowing "fair negotiation" with loss of a conference member. https://t.co/SbRdaKKVcg— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) June 22, 2019
So then what? Would they go to the MAC or Conference USA?
Oh. Would they just drop to FCS like they were before?
With UConn’s Olympic sports leaving American for Big East in 2020, sources told @Stadium UConn will not drop football program or drop down to FCS. It will remain in FBS. Where - as a football-only member in AAC, MAC or C-USA or FBS independent - is to be determined, sources said— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) June 22, 2019
But if we’re reading ti leaves:
Didn’t anyone ask UConn’s football people about this?
Uh, that’s actually quite murky:
According to sources, UConn does not already have a plan set for where football plays when basketball and other sports go to Big East. Various options— Jeff Jacobs (@jeffjacobs123) June 23, 2019
Not a good look. Even worse:
Either everyone is lying or they’re hiding something.
They play their games in Hartford, some 30-45 minutes from the campus in Storrs. Put simply, football is more of a bug than a feature of UConn sports.
At gunpoint, I’d say UConn is laying the groundwork for killing its football program after the 2025 season.
So when are they really leaving?
If the reports are true, after this upcoming athletic year (2019-2020).
Good riddance. What about the conference?
Let’s check the always-negotiable exit terms:
As of 2016 AAC required 27 months notice and 10m in exit fees.— BearcatJournal.com (@BearcatJournal) June 22, 2019
Here for Aresco making this move as painful as possible.
There was reportedly some language that addressed conference membership changes in The American’s TV deal with ESPN. What that language says is not publicly known, since The American has not disclosed the terms of its contract, but apparently that’s moot:
Confirmed: UConn's departure will NOT impact the AAC's new TV deal with ESPN. AAC will not allow football-only for UConn in the league due to poor performance from the program and lack of value it would bring. Huskies are expected to pay $10M exit fee.— C. Austin Cox (@C_Austin_Cox) June 22, 2019
Given the timing, it’s likely The American required at least 12 months lead-time for a member to leave, since the league’s year resets on July 1. The new media contract takes effect July 1, 2020.
AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco has every reason to get pushy with UConn, since he wants to make any other potential escapees think three times before hitting the silk with a billion of ESPN’s dollars on the line.
Hopefully it includes this ransom:
So who’s The American getting?
Twitter has floated everyone under the sun, as you can imagine. Assuming this all goes down, you’re going to hear every stupid suggestion from here to Provo, Utah over the next year or so.
But in all seriousness, The American has the following options:
- Invite a football-playing full member. It keeps the league at a nice, round 12 schools and preserves the divisional format.
- Invite a football-only member and an Olympic sports member. The American has done that already with Navy (football-only) and Wichita State (everything else).
- Stay at 11 in football and invite an Olympic sports member. This to me seems like it would be the smartest move, especially with the Big 12 having broken the seal on having a conference football championship game with fewer than 12 teams. There really are no schools who scream “INVITE US” out there.
I’m in Camp #3 for the moment, but I reserve the right to change my mind anytime I wish. We’ll get more context in time on this.
What’s the word from UCF?
Is this good for UCF?
It depends on the program. If you’re a coach of a sport where UConn is perennially bad, like Football, you’re probably pretty happy they’re not killing your conference schedule strength and/or RPI.
If you’re a coach of a sport where UConn is perennially good, like Baseball, you’re probably a little sad that they can’t help you as much in those departments.
If you’re Coach Abe and UCF Women’s Basketball, you’re THRILLED:
But for now, what do you think? Answer the poll and then give us any suggestions below in the comments.
WHat should The American do if UConn leaves?
This poll is closed
Invite a new member for all sports.
Invite a new member for football and another new member for everything else.
Stay at 11 for football and invite an Olympic sports member.