UConn Reportedly Rejoining Big East in 2020 After 6 Seasons in AACJune 22, 2019
The Connecticut Huskies could return to the Big East in 2020 and leave the American Athletic Conference.
According to Stadium's Brett McMurphy, the fate of Connecticut's football team is unclear since the Big East doesn't extend to the sport.
As Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel wrote, aligning with the Big East makes sense for UConn from a basketball perspective:
"The Huskies lost their geographic relevance in basketball by leaving the Big East, as organic rivals like Providence, St. John’s and Syracuse were replaced by strangers like Tulane, East Carolina and Memphis. Passion has been replaced by apathy, as once-teeming arenas became filled with empty seats and a once-rabid fan base has turned ambivalent."
The Huskies' men's team was the national champion in 2014, its first year in the AAC. Since then, UConn has one NCAA tournament appearance. Fans were voting with their feet as the basketball team saw a drop in attendance toward the end of the Kevin Ollie era, which ended in 2018 after six seasons.
The impact is evident for the women's team as well. Despite a 31-2 regular season, the Huskies were a No. 2 seed in the 2019 tournament in large part because they faced so little competition in the AAC.
Some also noted how the AAC's new television deal with ESPN left UConn as a clear loser as it made Huskies games harder to watch for fans, which limits the exposure to potential recruits as well.
Of course, the Huskies football team remains a big question mark. McMurphy reported they could move into another conference or become independent. Thamel added going the independent route "would likely end up as UConn's best option."
According to the Hartford Courant's Mike Anthony, scrapping football altogether is a nonstarter at the moment.
However, this could increase calls for Connecticut to seriously consider the future of its football team, or at the very least ponder a drop down to the FCS level. The athletic department had a roughly $40.5 million deficit in 2018, with football losing $8.7 million.
University president Thomas Katsouleas told reporters in February that he is in favor of keeping football around.
"Yes, I'm committed to football," he said. "I think it's part of the identity of who we are as a major, broad-context university and I don't think the savings from cutting it are as great as people think. In fact, it has ancillary value for the other sports and for fundraising overall."
Shifting to the Big East, however, would signal Connecticut is prioritizing success on the hardwood over growth on the gridiron.