12 Reasons Why UConn Will Regret Joining the New Big East

“Why does Rice play Texas?” John F. Kennedy once famously asked, in his famous speech about going to the moon. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

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I grew up as a UConn fan because UConn chased the impossible and made it reality.

My family moved to Hebron, Connecticut in the fall of 1989, just a couple months before Gampel Pavilion opened. I will never forget my first visit to that arena, because it felt audacious. “They’re building an arena here? In Storrs? 15 minutes from my house? There’s nothing here!”

That audacious spirit never wavered. Jim Calhoun believed UConn could win national titles in men’s basketball, and they did. Geno Auriemma believe UConn could win national titles in women’s basketball, and they did. Former athletic director Lew Perkins believed football held the key to turning UConn into an athletic goliath like Michigan. He got a stadium built. Randy Edsall took them to South Bend and beat Notre Dame.

Unfortunately, the demise of the real Big East changed how UConn’s athletic department, and its fans, viewed a challenge. No longer did they seek to make the impossible possible. Instead, they looked longingly to the past and wished for those good ol’ days to return.

It culminated with the heart-wrenching news that UConn is joining the zombie Big East this past Saturday. People keep saying UConn “rejoined” the Big East, but the Big East is dead, and has been for years.

This sad, short-sighted decision will have negative repercussions for the entire UConn athletic program for years to come. Let’s count the ways…

1) No Plan for Football

Even if you are 10,000% on board with UConn joining the zombie Big East, it is shocking to realize that the UConn athletic department had no plan for its football team. Andy Katz reported that the “hope” is for UConn to be independent. The hope? UConn is making a life-altering decision for the athletic department and there was no set plan for football? How is that even possible?

It reveals the shocking lack of forethought that any UConn athletic official put into this move. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to men’s basketball losing games and that’s a really, bad reason to make a conference move.

2) Football Independence Will Fail, Badly

Has anyone at UConn seen what the football program at UMasslooks like? Because that’s the future for UConn. I’m old enough to remember when UConn used to look down at UMass, not emulate it.

How exactly with UConn as an independent work? What Power Five school outside of Syracuse or Boston College is coming to the Rent? Why would they? UConn fans complain when Top 25 AAC teams show up to play. What do you think their reaction will be to a home slate of MAC, UMass and New Mexico State?

This hurts me so much as someone who has been at the Rent since it opened, but the football program is officially dead. They’re better off dropping down to FCS or mercy killing it. Independence is going to be a sad, painful failure. And to think, they just wrapped up a multi-million project to update the locker room. Would’ve been better served to toss that money into an incinerator.

3) No One Outside of Connecticut Cares About the Big East

I live in Washington, D.C. now, about four blocks from the Capital One Arena. I know when the Caps play. I know when there’s a concert. I sometimes know when the Wizards are playing. I never know when Georgetown is playing.

Simply put, Georgetown fans and alums hate the zombie Big East. It’s a steady stream of teams like Creighton, Butler and Providence that no one cares about. It’s sad. It’s even sadder to juxtapose the hatred here for the zombie Big East with UConn fans jumping for joy all weekend. The disconnect says a lot about how much UConn fans are stuck in the past.

There’s also the not insignificant fact that no one watches Big East basketball on TV. Except for Villanova, the games get test pattern ratings. We’re talking five-digit viewership. If not for Villanova’s success, who knows if the Big East would even still be on Fox.

We know how much Fox values the Big East, since their new Big Ten deal has essentially erased their interest in Big East basketball. Again, except for Villanova – that’s a running theme with the zombie Big East.

4) The AAC is Better than the Big East at Basketball!

Last year, Villanova took a step back and – surprise, surprise – the Big East was a very average basketball conference. The AAC had more tourney teams and more tourney wins. It's a good basketball league!

Villanova has been so good that it has artificially inflated how good people think the Big East is, when it’s really Villanova and nine very, very mediocre programs. One reason for this false narrative is the concentration of college basketball writers in the Northeast and Villanova’s location in Philadelphia.

The zombie Big East is basically an updated version of the old Atlantic 10 and I simply don’t understand why UConn fans are excited about this.

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5) Fans Didn’t Care About These Teams

When I lived in Hartford from 2008-2011, I used to seek out home games versus Seton Hall, St John’s and DePaul at the XL Center. Why? Because tickets were dirt cheap. The real games vs Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rick Pitino’s Louisville were far too expensive for me at the time. But St John’s? I could walk in for $10.

That’s what makes the excitement about the Big East even more confusing. People know Syracuse is in the ACC now, right? Except for Villanova, none of the current Big East teams mean anything. Heck, a full half of the zombie Big East aren’t even real Big East members!

6) AAC is Not Why UConn Loses

No one, myself included, is happy with the recent lack of success for UConn football or UConn men’s basketball. However, the notion that the AAC is why UConn sucks is absurd.

UConn football sucks because Jeff Hathaway made, quite possibly, the worst hire in the history of college football when he followed up the Randy Edsall era with the Paul Pasqualoni era. Bob Diaco pulled off the Herculean task of making things even worse. Neither of these hires are the AAC’s fault. The AAC, it can be argued, is a much strong football league that the tail end of the Big East days. UCF’s rise to power and Houston’s hire of Dana Holgorsen reveals a football conference on the upswing, one that was arguably better than the Pac-12 last year.

When it comes to basketball, the success of other AAC teams shows that UConn’s lack of success has nothing to do with its conference brethren. Houston was Top 10 for most of last year. UCF came within a whisker of beating Zion and Duke in the NCAA Tournament.

To rub salt into the wounds, Penny Hardaway has the #1 recruiting class in the nation right now. How come the AAC is only negatively impacting UConn? Could it be that the conference has nothing to do with UConn’s current failures?

Joining the zombie Big East won’t magically make UConn win games.

7) Football Drives College Sports

UConn would be in the ACC today if the football program didn’t suck. When Maryland left, the ACC was deciding between Louisville and UConn, which came after the Syracuse/Pitt debacle where Boston College apparently nixed UConn. This was a different debate and UConn was very much in the discussion. Based on everything the ACC stands for – namely, good education and not having coaches commit crimes – UConn should’ve been the obvious choice.

So why did the ACC choose Louisville despite Duke & UNC pulling for UConn? The ACC’s football schools (Florida State, Clemson, etc.) said, “No more basketball schools.” Imagine how different life would be if the ACC chose UConn?

8) No ACC or Big Ten, Ever

Another common theme in the excitement from UConn fans over the zombie Big East is they believed that the Power Five was never going to come calling. This is partially why the move is so short-sighted, as you never, ever know in college sports. Did anyone think the Big Ten would ever invite Rutgers or Maryland?

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Even more annoyingly, there’s a very realistic path – err, there was – for UConn to join either conference. There has been a lot of talk about the college football playoff requiring a conference championship to make the Final Four. If that were to happen, Notre Dame would be forced to join the Big Ten or ACC and they would do so immediately.

That would leave each league with 15 teams. You know who would be a perfect 16th team & companion? If you’re a UConn fan, it’s best not to think about that because with UConn football dead, so are those dreams.

9) Regional Goals vs National Dreams

Speaking of dreams, retreating to the zombie Big East is a massive miscalculation on the future of, well, everything. Every other league is trying to expand their footprint as large as possible. One of the few positives that the AAC has going for it is the massive size and its location in so many top media markets. UCF is a national football brand.

UConn, by many accounts, made this zombie Big East decision in part to save its relationship with SNY. A regional cable network! Huh? Yes, SNY has been beneficial for UConn, but sometimes you must give up something good to get something better. It’s another reason why the move is so stupidly short-sighted…

10) Streaming Is the Future

UConn officials were apparently very upset by the inclusion of ESPN+, ESPN’s new streaming service, in the new AAC TV deal. This is where I really question UConn’s leadership, because streaming is the future of sports, whether UConn’s leadership likes it or not.

Instead of being one of the early adopters of new technology, UConn has retreated to the safe confines of cable television. Does anyone want to tell UConn that “cord-cutting” is a thing? ESPN didn’t start a streaming service for fun. They started it because it’s the future of delivering sports to consumers.

There have been multiple studies and predictions from industry insiders that cable TV will cease to exist by 2030. It’s going to feel stupid when we realize UConn killed the football program to save a relationship with a TV network that no longer exists.

11) Less Money!

UConn is the first university to switch conferences for less money. UConn is strapped for cash as it is, and now they’re paying $10 million to join an inferior basketball league and kill the football program. This is good how?

Yes, I know, travel costs will be dramatically reduced. UConn is also the first FBS school to switch conferences based on travel costs.

12) The Eternal Sadness of Chasing Ghosts

Jim Calhoun isn’t walking through that door. I understand that UConn fans want to relive the glory days, but retreating to the zombie Big East isn’t the answer.

I see the sadness up close here in D.C. with Georgetown. The fans sell out the arena for Syracuse but don’t show up for Seton Hall. They want it to permanently be 1985, much like UConn fans want it to always be 2004.

But 2004 is gone, along with the real Big East. UConn must move on.

Instead of moving on, UConn is retreating. UConn used to be about chasing greatness, not ghosts of the past. 

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  1. This is childish.

    1. Which reasons did you not agree with?

    2. Ok. But some of them, like UConn making less money, are just facts.

  2. These are all excellent points. This move made no sense to me. I would argue that the basketball league is at least equal to the AAC (as long as Nova is in the BE) but the money, loss of football and the perception by some that the women's basketball team is driving all this is concerning. Great read!

    1. Thanks for reading! I understand that the BE is a good league but it's everything that UConn is giving up that annoys me

  3. This is a bit too Trump-like, using childish name-calling in support of a point that may or may not have merit. You lost me at "zombie Big East"...the Big East won two of the last four national championships in the sport that matters most to us. That's not a "zombie" conference. Maybe this is a good move, maybe it isn't, but just stop with the third grade rhetoric.

    1. Trump-like? Stop.

      Why is everyone caught up on the zombie Big East thing? People have been calling it that since it formed, including a whole bunch of UConn fans. I didn't come up with it.

      The real Big East is dead.

  4. Excellent write up and I agree on all points. I think UCONN screwed up big time here, and if I was one of their fans I would be pissed.

  5. Hmm, look at the attendance at AAC games. No rivalries and nobody cares. How many do they get for the AAC tourney? MSG is the center of the basketball universe, sells out and is watched nationally. There are no ECU or Tulanes in the BE. Talented kids that love basketball will always go to a basketball school and league. Lastly, UCONN sucks in basketball because kids don’t want to travel and play in empty lifeless arenas. BE arenas are packed and exciting.
    Yes, AAC football is very good, equal to the Pac12. They will lose teams next expansion. UCONN will be able to put together a decent football schedule - a couple of lower level BIG10, a couple lower level ACC, UMASS, BC, Army, a couple AAC (already set!), Buffalo, BYU, Villanova plus use basketball to entice others. No problem fir football. This happened fast and schedules are made far in advance. Nerd time to transition.
    Go huskies!!

  6. In fairness, there are some valid points, and some REALLY weak points. The weak points undermine the overall credibility of the article. Cut the number of points in half, and the article would be more convincing. Yes, the football program at UConn is a mess. However, from a basketball standpoint the Big East IS a better conference and a better fit for UConn.

  7. The move to the Big East will help UConn's crown jewels: hoops. It will not impact our other elite sport, field hockey, since they already compete in the BE. It will probably help men's soccer return to national relevance. It may hurt baseball. Football was circling the drain in the AAC with no hope for improvement. Going independent is a bold move that may reinvigorate the program. It may not. Either way, the BE move is an overall benefit to the athletic department.

  8. You wrote this as if the football program is elite


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