UConn Football: The Road Not Taken

Some people at the University of Connecticut are no doubt in the denial stage as the evidence continues to suggest that an invitation into the Big 12 will NOT be coming. This is a change from early optimistic expectations based on a four school Big 12 expansion.

With only two schools, UConn's odds of Big 12 being by-passed increase considerably.

If that happens--and nothing is over until it is over in the ever changing world of the Big 12--the rejection slip for the Huskies will be added to those given by the ACC (twice) and the Big Ten.

With that reality check, the Huskies must accept that they will never be a major player in both football and basketball.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

If there is an unfairness aspect to that, as UConn backers look to the North and see the athletic ineptness of Boston College continuing to be rewarded with huge checks each year from the ACC and look to the South and see Rutgers, the poster child for athletic ineptness, snuggle under the huge financial blanket of the Big Ten, so be it.

It is what it is and UConn must deal with not only the present, but the future, a future which will not have UConn football as a Power 5 conference member.

If UConn officials and fans can accept that, there is a parachute.

It is the Big East, UConn's former home in many sports, including men's and women's basketball

.To do that, however,UConn will have to leave the American Athletic Conference, which was morphed as a football conference after the Big East came apart with the defection of the Catholic 7 group of schools.

UConn has never felt totally comfortable in the AAC as it tried to create new rivalries at further distances. But UConn vs. East Carolina and UConn vs. Tulsa is a tough sell compared to UConn-St. John's or UConn-Villanova in basketball.

And in college football, UConn has NO rivals, despite the attempt to create one with UCF.

The easy way, of course, would be for UConn to go back to the American after the Big 12 does its business. It can wait and hope that the ACC finally makes a move to 16 schools by adding Notre Dame and UConn. But that is a future bet which is hardly a lock.

The reality is that the money the AAC can provide is shrinking from its current total of $8 million per year. Some projections have that number closer to $3 million within five years. Re-joining the Big East would at least equal that total without ANY football television money.

In terms of football, the AAC still has the best chance among the non Power 5 conferences to land a spot in the 6 playoff bowls. But if the AAC loses a Houston or/and a Cincinnati, its value also diminishes.

If the Big East is available to UConn, how can the Huskies NOT make that move?

The answer will be framed by another lurking question: What do you do with football? The Big East does NOT offer a football option for the Huskies.

If UConn returns to the Big East, it has a few choices regarding football.

It can: Drop to the FCS level. No one wants that, no one would care. No one would watch.

It can: Try life as an independent. Very, very difficult with lots of risk and little reward (no guaranteed bowl slots), scheduling difficulties.

It can: Attempt to find a conference that will take the Huskies in football only. The list of non Power 5 conferences includes: The Mountain West, Conference USA, the Sun Belt, the Mid-American. From a geographic standpoint, the MAC makes the most sense.

The MAC experimented for four years with UMass as a football only member. It didn't work out and UMass is now an independent in football and a member in the A-10 in other sports, as it waits for a call from the AAC.

Why would the MAC take another chance with UConn? One theory which has been floated is that the MAC makes the move from 12 to 14 schools in football by adding UConn and UMass, which along with Buffalo, would give it a nice Eastern block of schools.

That deal could work, since UMass would be content to stay in the A10 in the other sports and have a natural rival and travel partner with UConn.

How this eventually plays itself out is still unclear. But what seems absolutely certain is that UConn must make a decision about the direction of its football program and almost certainly accept the fact that the path for UConn football as a major player is now closed.[/membership]