It's official, the Big 12 is looking at expansion because of TV money. They're almost certainly looking to add two schools, with four a definite possibility. There's no shortage of schools that would jump at the opportunity to join the Power 5 -- most of them from the AAC.
The usual suspects -- Cincinnati, Memphis, Houston and BYU -- are still the leading candidates. But UConn is in the mix as well. They've got access to the Boston and NYC markets, big draws for a potential television contract. And there are reasons why the Big 12 would prefer them to other candidates (i.e. no increased recruiting competition for member schools). There's also logistical reasons they would not (high costs and longer travel for Olympic sports).
In all of this hoopla, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said that the Big 12 would also be open to football-only members. That got some wheels turning, with ESPN's Andy Katz reporting that the Big East would be open to taking back UConn if they found a home for football.
If UConn found a home for football, the Big East would seriously consider the Huskies for all other sports,... https://t.co/nAO6olu7iB— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) July 20, 2016
That all sounds great for the Big East. They get another brand name to help with the men's basketball national perception, the best women's basketball program in recorded history and a school actually located in the East. Sorry Gonzaga and Wichita State.
The problem is, even if this made sense for UConn -- it doesn't, by the way -- it's extremely unlikely that UConn would find itself as a football-only member in any conference.
The Big 12 probably wouldn't want UConn Football without their flagship basketball programs
Let's humor ourselves and say the Big 12 did take on football-only members at a reduced share of the TV money. There are some choices that make sense. Boise State is a recognizable name in football only. BYU is too (though their basketball is decent), and their policy to not play on Sunday's complicates scheduling for sports other than football. So they're both fits. But UConn?
Their football program isn't very good, but even if the TV upside of the market they represent is enough to warrant an invite, why wouldn't the Big 12 want their two best programs? Those have value too according to the Big 12's expansion criteria.
The only alternative seems to be that the Huskies give up football, and revert to a basketball-first school.
UConn could drop football (or move to the FCS) -- but why would they?
UConn isn't getting a lot of TV money currently and the state is in a ton of debt. Let's say they miss out on a Big 12 invite this time around. You could argue the football ship has sailed since the program isn't very competitive. So if they did drop it, or even went back to the FCS, then yes they would be a perfect fit for the Big East.
But having football seems to be a prerequisite to play with the Power 5. And there's this:
Source at UConn says this is absolutely not on the table and never has been https://t.co/Ys2UFDCqIR— Russell Steinberg (@Russ_Steinberg) July 20, 2016
Dropping football would be admitting failure, not exactly a common trait among
politicians collegiate administratiors. It would also be giving up th Power 5 dream and all that money. And it would definitely piss off some influential boosters.
I just can't see it happening that way for the Huskies. And that means a Big East-UConn reunion probably isn't in the cards.