Connecticut made the big move, and maybe, someday, it still will pay.
The state built a 40,000-seat stadium and millions were poured into moving up from I-AA to the Big East, from on-campus bleachers to a place closer to Hartford.
A decade later, the Huskies are still waiting for their invitation to the big time. National titles in men's basketball, more of them in women's basketball, a Big East title in football. . . . Still waiting.
There still is a very good chance UConn will fill one of the openings in the Atlantic Coast Conference if the ACC is raided by one or more of the other big-boy leagues.
But so far, the big bet hasn't paid off. Even going to the Fiesta Bowl two seasons back after winning the Big East cost the school. UConn spent $2.9 million from unsold tickets out of its 17,500-ticket allotment, $1.1 million for travel and housing, including $550,000 for the band and cheerleaders, and $164,428 in meals at a high-end resort hotel where UConn was required to stay. (Lodging alone was $211,496.) Meanwhile, the school's cut from the $18 million paid to the Big East was $2.523 million. (The school also received funds from other Big East schools' bowl appearances.)
But that bowl business is a separate issue. The big bet involves getting into a conference with a lucrative television package.
"They've done it right in terms of positioning themselves," said Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro. "They've had the help of a state with the stadium. They've won a lot of championships across a lot of programs. They've done as good a job as anybody for trying to position themselves for whatever opportunities may be there.