Several reports on Saturday indicated that UConn is on the verge of leaving the American Athletic Conference in favor of the Big East for all sports except football.
The Big East doesn’t offer football, and finding a suitable home in that sport likely won’t be easy for UConn.
The move was first reported by Digital Sports Desk, a Boston-based website and several other outlets confirmed it.
Temple plays in the AAC and UConn and was the only school within driving distance in basketball. In football Navy, which is in a different division, is also within driving distance.
A UConn official confirmed to the Associated Press on Saturday that there have been talks with the Big East, but said they were not aware any invitation had been extended.
The conference bylaws require UConn to pay a $10 million withdrawal fee and give 27 months’ notice before leaving, according to AP. Those who spoke to AP said UConn would not be allowed to remain in the AAC for football beyond the 2019 season.
Currently there are 12 football and 12 basketball schools in the AAC. Eleven of the schools, including UConn, are both football and basketball members of the conference. Navy is in the AAC as a football-only school. Wichita State is in the AAC in all sports, but doesn’t offer football.
The schools besides Temple and UConn that offer football and basketball are Houston, Cincinnati, Memphis, South Florida, Central Florida, Tulane, Tulsa, East Carolina University and SMU.
When contacted by The Inquirer, the AAC declined comment.
The Big East declined comment to AP, but UConn released this statement: “It is our responsibility to always be mindful of what is in the best interest of our student athletes, our fans and our future. With that being said, we have been and remain proud members of the American Athletic Conference."
Despite that statement, two other people with knowledge of the discussions confirmed to AP that there have been negotiations and said an announcement from the schools and conference could come early next week.
UConn was in the Big East, but when many conferences were realigning, the school was hoping to join a Power Five Conference. However, UConn struck out in its attempt to join conferences such as the ACC and Big 10.
So UConn and several schools moved from the Big East to the AAC when the Big East announced in December of 2012 that it was splitting from football-playing schools.
The AAC was formed in 2013.
Temple was in the Big East for one year (2012) for football, while playing in the Atlantic 10 for basketball. In 2013, Temple moved to the AAC for football, basketball and all the other sports that the conference offers.
UConn won the men’s basketball national championship in that inaugural AAC season in 2013-14, but hasn’t been the dominant force many expected since then. In the past five years, the Huskies have only been to the NCAA tournament once.
UConn has been an utter disaster in football. Since the AAC’s inaugural football season in 2013, UConn is 18-55, including 1-11 this past season.
This move is signaling that UConn is putting all its chips into basketball and what will happen to football remains to be seen.
The Big East has prospered in basketball since the switch in 2013. Villanova has led the way, winning national championships in 2016 and 2018 and appearing in the NCAA tournament each of the last six years in the new alignment. Besides Villanova, the other nine men’s basketball schools are Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Butler, Creighton, Georgetown, Providence, Xavier and DePaul.
In six seasons of its current 10-school alignment, the BIG EAST has received a total of 32 NCAA Tournament men’s basketball invitations, averaging 5.3 per season.
If UConn departs, the AAC will likely look for a new football school, to keep the current format of two, six-team divisions. The AAC doesn’t have divisions in basketball. Each team plays seven opponents twice and four others once.