ACC Expansion: UConn to ACC Would Be Death Knell for Big East

Joseph HealyCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2011

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04:  The Connecticut Huskies huddle up before playing against the Butler Bulldogs during the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

News is traveling faster than ever in the world of conference expansion and realignment, and never has it been more apparent than now with all the breaking news about ACC expansion.

Yesterday morning, news broke that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were seeking a move to the ACC. Later, we heard that they had officially sent in their request. By the time most people had headed to bed on Saturday night, it looked like all but a certainty that the two would be added.

Now, the news is surrounding the University of Connecticut and their hopes to change conferences. In a story on, Dana O'Neill broke news that the university president is actively seeking a move to the ACC:

UConn president Susan Herbst is aggressively pursuing membership in the ACC to become the 15th or 16th member institution in the conference, according to a source with direct knowledge of UConn's situation.

The floodgates have opened out of the Big East conference. In what amounts to a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation, UConn leaving to head to the ACC would mean the end of the Big East conference, at least as a major player in D-I athletics.

It's ironic that what made the Big East special over the last several years has also been their undoing.

When conference expansion and shifting started in earnest several years ago with Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College moving to the ACC, the Big East decided to take a different approach to expansion.

Rather than try to fight fire with fire and bring in historical college football powers as had been the strategy of the ACC, the Big East decided to make themselves the top college basketball conference in the nation.

Their mission to do that was wildly successful. They routinely put eight teams in the NCAA Tournament and no one could argue that they weren't the best basketball conference in the country.

Now, that strategy seems to be backfiring on them, as football continues to rule the day. Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Connecticut's basketball programs are all much more established than their football programs at this point, but they are looking at moving on because of the money that is promised to teams that are part of a powerful football conference.

The ACC isn't a huge football conference, but they certainly have a higher profile than the Big East.

Now, the Big East is left with a huge dilemma. They stand to lose arguably their three most consistent basketball programs. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are perennial top-10 teams and UConn is the defending national champion.

They would lose their spot as the top basketball conference in the nation and they barely have enough football-playing teams left to have a football season.

They are left with the choice of trying to get involved in the rat race of cherry-picking teams from other conferences or restructuring as is, knowing that they simply won't be mentioned among the top athletic conferences anymore.

The decision they make is a huge one. The future of their conference hangs in the balance. The unfortunate thing is that it doesn't appear that it will matter which way they go. The Big East just isn't going to be the conference that we had all grown to know and love.