With UConn officially moving to the Big East, the conference needs to consider whether or not to replace the Huskies’ brand that was so valuable to AAC Basketball
Rumors and message-board theorists have swirled the idea of UConn returning to the Big East for a number of years. To some, it seemed to make sense: historical ties to the conference, the basketball focus the Big East was founded to pursue, a crappy football program that even most of their own fans see as expendable. For armchair ADs, it was one of those most popular of the countless conference realignment theories that float around the internet. The move would obviously have major implications for AAC Basketball.
For skeptics, myself included, it seemed like more of an emotional plea fueled by nostalgia than a serious concept. Big East basketball was exclusively a league of private institutions, nine out of the ten being Catholic. Their tight-knit culture had seemed to succeed in creating a really great conference, both on the court and in the stands. It had produced two national championships, multiple top seeds in the NCAA tournament, has a handful of teams appear in the AP Poll every year. It’s not weighed down by any particularly terrible programs like most conferences. The ten-team, eighteen-game schedule seemed perfect on paper. And of course, as the old cliche goes, football drives the bus. Even a struggling football program in the AAC was more valuable than… well, we don’t know what, but certainly more valuable than whatever UConn is going to do with its pigskin players.
No one aside from a handful of people really know why this move happened when it did. The timing seems off, with the AAC having just finalized a new media deal, and speculated realignment not set to start until midway through the next decade. And while this is perceived as a positive for UConn, especially the men’s basketball team, this could really just be the result of the university cutting its massive losses and giving up on major conference football. We might not ever really know.
What we do know is that what signals good news for UConn fans certainly feels like bad news for the other AAC fan bases. But given Connecticut’s performance between their men’s basketball and football programs, this might end up becoming something that improves the conference when all is said and done.
What happens to the conference now is really anyone’s guess, but we’re here to break down some of the more likely scenarios.