The chatter can be heard from Storrs to Simsbury, from New Haven to New London. When all of the stories about Big 12 expansion play out, which conference will the University of Connecticut Huskies be able to call their own?
It' still too early in the game to make a final call.
But TMGcollegesports.com knows where the Huskies WILL NOT be playing. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
It seems more and more likely that the Huskies WILL NOT be part of the American Athletic Conference.
Obviously, if the Big 12 offers full membership or even football only membership, the Huskies will be gone by sunset.
But the Big 12 picture is getting darker as the expansion plans shrink (two or zero schools) and the number of candidates increase.
UConn's chances with only a two-school expansion decrease dramatically.
So what happens if the Huskies receive the rejection slip from the Big 12?
Go back to the AAC as a full member and wait?
People familiar with the situation say, UConn does not want to return to a status quo. The AAC does not pay enough money--at least not enough without additional perks, which can only be provided if the Huskies go back to the Big East in their non-football varsity sports.
That part is a no brainer. UConn vs. East Carolina or UConn vs. Providence. UConn vs. Tulsa or UConn vs. Villanova, UConn vs. Tulane or UConn vs. Georgetown.
The Big East is happy with 10 schools, but if it adds the prestige of UConn in men's and women's basketball, it will make the move to add another school.
The key question, of course, is what about football?
Here is where UConn has come to a crossroads. By joining the Big East, the Huskies' choices in football are limited to several options, none of them ideal.
The Huskies could and will ask the AAC for football only status. The AAC, as it should, will almost certainly turn it down. UConn football on its own has a little value for the AAC.
UConn can go back down to FCS level.
Nope. That's a money loser and too much money has been spent on facilities to play at the FCS level.
UConn can play as an independent.
Nope. Unless you are Notre Dame, BYU, or one of the service academies, that's too much risk and not enough reward.
UConn could find a non-Power Five conference for football-only membership.
Bingo. That would work. But it would also send a message that UConn is giving football secondary status. For a school that brought itself from the 1-AA (FCS) level to a spot in a BCS game, the Fiesta Bowl, in less than 15 years, that is quite a concession.
There are leagues out there where it could work, ranging from the the Mountain West, to the Sun Belt, to Conference USA to the Mid-American Conference. It will be a letdown, with smaller crowds and less interest. Again, for a school that flirted with the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and the American this could be seen as a defeat. But UConn can find a league for its football team.
Is it worth it? The prize is what many people always wanted and were disappointed when it came apart--life in the Big East, with natural rivalries within reasonable distances.
It will not be a cash flow cow. UConn football will fade further into the background, but the overall reward will be worth the price.
The lottery winner for UConn remains membership in the Big 12. Even if in football only--the best of both world situations for the Huskies, if paired with the Big East--it would be regarded as a major victory, although the Big East might be reluctant to let the Huskies back in with the possible threat of the Huskies going to all sports in the Big 12.
Right now, that looks like a long shot, although if BYU and/or Houston is eliminated, UConn would have a much better chance.
All of this should be played out in the next several weeks, with no guarantees on any, but one of the scenarios--the Huskies remaining a member of the the AAC. [/membership]