They have been jilted twice by the ACC. They have been ignored by the Big Ten and they are now in a courtship with the Big 12, in which they are regarded (in many quarters) as long shot possibilities.
What is wrong with the University of Connecticut?
The answer, other than location, should be simple.
The location card is again being used against the Huskies in the latest dance with the Big 12. Too remote from the other members (other than West Virginia) is a criticism you hear. Football “brings nothing” is another knock against UConn.
Give me a break.
The world of college athletics has changed considerably in the past 10 years. The new term being used is “Geographic footprint” in terms of television exposure.
The Big 12 has a very small “geographic footprint” which is a prime reason why the conference is now pondering expanding by as many as four schools. Adding schools such as BYU and UCF will increase that footprint dramatically.
Adding UConn would also do that. It puts the Big 12 in the Northeast. It puts the Big 12 with access to Boston and New York. It puts UConn in areas in which the Big 10 and ACC have already settled.
Forget the nonsense that playing a football game in East Hartford, Ct. and sending athletes to events in Storrs is too costly.
Forget the argument that UConn football brings nothing to the table. The ACC has added Boston College and the Big Ten has added Rutgers to increase its geographic footprint and UConn has done better than both of those schools in overall athletic accomplishment.
Oh, this is not a free ride for the Huskies. Football coach Bob Diaco has to continue to rebuild a program that peaked six years ago when then football coach Randy Edsall got UConn into a BCS game in the Fiesta Bowl. UConn needs to get competitive in football. So does UCF.
But with the added exposure that being part of a Power 5 conference brings, with a commitment which seems evident in both schools, that should not be an obstacle that can not be overcome.
In this new world order of college athletics, the Big 12’s direction should be obvious. Get bigger–and hopefully better–by moving away from a Texas (state) dominated conference is a necessity.
To do that, the league needs to get into Florida where the SEC and ACC are firmly entrenched. Being in Florida will not only help UCF, but it will help Texas and Texas Tech and Oklahoma and Iowa State, because it opens a Florida recruiting window in the state. It penetrates a big (Orlando) television market.
The league also needs to move into the Northeast. UConn is the only opportunity. By adding UConn, the Big 12 would add nationally ranked championship quality programs in men’s and women’s basketball.
Both the ACC and the Big Ten will be holding their conference basketball tournament’s in New York City in the future. Why couldn’t the Big 12 do the same thing every 5 years?
Football can also open a door in New York City. Play a football game at Yankee Stadium. Or at Met Life Stadium. Go further north and challenge Boston College in Boston with a game in Foxborough between UConn and Texas.
Be creative. Be aggressive.
The Big 12 also needs to go West. BYU takes care of that. It opens a new time zone, it increases football exposure because BYU IS a national program. And the Big 12 can get that exposure at a cheaper price if it makes BYU a football only member.
Word has it that the Big 12 wants to get this done by the end of the summer.
So do it. It should be easy and it should be quick.
Again look at markets, not schools. Florida, the Northeast and the Mountain Time Zone should be no brain moves. That would be UCF, BYU and UConn.
With the other spot, pick from Cincinnati, Memphis or Houston.
IT’S NOT THAT HARD.
Just do it.
Word has it that the calls will go out in the next few days to the chosen schools and then the process will move forward.
UConn should be part of that process. The Huskies also know that this could be their last hurrah. If they come up empty with the Big 12, there are no more doors to open.
If it is excluded, UConn must decide what it wants to be and where it wants to be. For every sport but football, the Big East is a natural landing area.
The football issue must be looked at from a different prism. There aren’t many options. Football only as part of the AAC, life as an independent, downgrade back to the FCS level or drop the sport completely?
None are ideal choices, although there would be a parade in Storrs and Hartford if the compromise was Big East/ Football only in the AAC.
But it shouldn’t come t that. It is time for UConn to be invited to the prom by the Big 12.