UConn returns to the Big East Conference after departing in 2013
After leaving the conference amidst conference realignment, UConn announced that the school will return to the Big East.
Let’s be honest. Conference realignment in college athletics was and still is a black eye on collegiate sports. Schools moving to conferences they should not be in (cough, cough Rutgers) was commonplace. One of the schools caught in the realignment merry-go-round was UConn. Once the Big East broke away and became a basketball-centric conference, the Huskies were forced to move to purgatory, better known as the American Athletic Conference.
Since 2013 UConn was living anonymity in the AAC with just women’s basketball holding the fort for the program. The problem was that while college football runs things in college athletics, the UConn football team was one of the worst teams in the nation. The national profile of the men’s basketball team fell as they faced such college powerhouses like Tulane, East Carolina, and Tulsa. Something had to be done, and finally, something did happen.
— UConn Huskies (@UConnHuskies) June 27, 2019
The Return To Relevance
UConn announced during a press conference on Thursday that the school athletic programs, except for football, would be returning to the Big East. The return would likely be in 2020 as the Huskies return to the conference where they were among the charter members in 1979.
“On the 40th anniversary of our founding in 1979, we’re very excited to welcome back the University of Connecticut, a Big East charter member,” said Big East commissioner Val Ackerman. “As a group of schools rooted in basketball preeminence, we can think of no better partner than UConn to join us in perpetuating the rivalries, traditions and successes that have made the Big East unlike any other conference in college basketball. We know that our competitions and the experiences of our student-athletes, coaches and supporters across all of our sports will be greatly enriched by UConn’s return.”
“The Big East is an incredibly special and enduring part of our heritage,” UConn president Susan Herbst said. “We were a founding member 40 years ago. Our programs grew and thrived in this conference over decades. The intensity of the competition, the passion of our rivalries, and all of our most triumphant wins and toughest losses helped to make us who we are. Coming back here means UConn is coming home. We are excited about the future.”
The Football Problem
The move leaves the football program in a tight spot. Since joining the AAC in 2013, the Huskies’ record is 18-55. One of their options currently is to join another conference. This option could be tough due to football being the only sport that would appear in a new conference. The other option is going independent, but there’s an inherent problem with that as well.
Scheduling games in college football is a process that stretches over several years. Programs plan games years in advance, so attempting to configure a schedule on short notice is an almost impossible task. Add in the fact that playing UConn is not exactly a resume-building game increases the difficulty the school will face in piecing together a schedule. For the first time, it looks as if basketball took priority over football in a conference move.
Basketball Is Once Again Important
In regards to the basketball, the move heightens the profile of UConn men’s basketball considerably. The AAC is not a powerhouse by any means, so the jump increases UConn’s stock. Rivalries with Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence and Villanova return as the Huskies become a major player in the tri-state area once again. The UConn’s women’s basketball team will also help as Big East television partner FOX with this move. FOX and its family of networks will now have the preeminent women’s college basketball team on their airwaves.
UConn moving to the Big East makes the conference even stronger. Football withstanding, the Huskies will significantly benefit from the move. More importantly, they return to a place that they should’ve never left in the first place.
Welcome home UConn.