UConn: Huskies Will Stay Put
The Big East Conference is no more, at least the Big East Conference that once housed the likes of Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Each of those teams left the BE along with Boston College and soon two more: Rutgers and Louisville. The conference name went with the seven Catholic schools that left the league, forcing the old Big East to rename and rebrand itself as the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
Only one major program from the old Big East remains and that would be the University of Connecticut (UConn), a school that has multiple men’s and women’s basketball titles under its belt plus titles in other sports such as cross-country. Its football success hasn’t been as stellar, but the school has won a slice of the Big East title and also enjoyed a trip to the Fiesta Bowl as a result of it.
UConn is, however, a school without a major conference. With the AAC demoted to second-tier status, only the Pac 12, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and the ACC remain. UConn has been wanting to make the move to another conference, but there are no takers. Moreover, its athletic director, Warde Manuel, has said that he is done looking for a new conference and will, instead, focus on maintaining its success reports ESPN.
The admission by Manuel comes as a blow to fans that had hoped that either the ACC or Big Ten would still come calling. Its been even more difficult for Huskies loyalists to swallow that pill especially after Louisville was picked by the ACC to replace departing Maryland. Both Rutgers and Maryland are heading to the Big Ten in 2014.
Worrisome to many is the impact that an AAC affiliation will have on UConn’s basketball programs, but the problem may not be as serious as some think especially as the coaches will be working with Manuel to strengthen their out-of-league schedule. Besides, with Cincinnati, Temple and Memphis on the schedule, the AAC won’t be overlooked when post-season play begins. That collective strength can keep the recruiting appeal strong for both the men’s and women’s programs, with key out-of-conference games bolstering that appeal.
UConn football, however, may not be as fortunate. For 2014, the first season with Louisville and Rutgers gone from the conference, two of UConn’s nonconference foes include BYU and Boise State. For 2015, games against Tennessee and BYU will highlight the schedule. A home-and-home series with Virginia begins in 2016 and future contests against Notre Dame have been discussed, but are not scheduled. It may take UConn scheduling four marque series per season to bolster the football program’s credibility as league games against the likes of Tulane, Navy and SMU hardly engender the national attention and money that the Huskies need.
Though UConn says that the Huskies will stay put, don’t bet on that statement holding up especially if other conferences expand again. Just one program shift among the power five conferences and the conference that stands to lose out may come calling. Clemson or Florida State exiting for the Big 12 would create a void in the ACC, one of several rumors aired earlier this year. Such a move could pave the way for UConn’s admission to the ACC, a school that is geographically close to Boston College and within range of Pitt and Syracuse, two other ACC schools it once played annually.