Share This Article
The Big 12 conference is on the prowl looking to add more teams. This article examines why the UConn Huskies should be at the top of its expansion list.
Realignment rumors fly around like chaff in the wind during this time of year. Which team is headed where? What conference is set to implode?
Among college football fans, these discussions are the new favorite pastime. It gives us something to do as we eagerly await the start of a new season.
So far, the talk of the 2023 summer has been Big 12 expansion and the Pac-12’s new media deal (or lack thereof).
We watched, gossiped, and waited to see how things would unfold. Then late last week, the first domino fell.
Colorado announced it would leave the Pac-12 to rejoin the Big 12 in 2024.
Now the question on everyone’s mind is, who’s next?
According to reports, Arizona is incredibly close to taking the leap.
After the Wildcats, your guess is as good as mine. Rumors have numerous schools in the mix. Several Pac-12 schools, a few G5 schools, and even an ACC school.
But only one team should be at the top of the list (after Arizona).
I’ve been saying it all summer and have several videos to prove it.
Despite the criticism and objections received, I’ve maintained unwavering support to bring UConn to the Big 12.
Here are three reasons why:
Basketball Blue Bloods
It’s no secret that Commissioner Brett Yormark is looking to fill the Big 12 with elite basketball programs. The conference will likely never compete with the B1G or SEC in football revenue, so it only makes sense to go after the next most popular sport.
There’s plenty of money to be made from college hoops, particularly in March. So stocking up on schools that are perennial NCAA tournament teams is wise both competitively and financially.
Adding UConn would give the conference two basketball Blue Bloods with their men’s and women’s programs. Both of which bring a combined 16 national championships and 28 Final Four appearances.
The addition of UConn would put the Big 12 in a position to replicate what the Big East did in 2011 when they sent a record-setting eleven teams to the NCAA Tournament. This is significant because teams earn one “unit” for every game played in the tournament (except for the championship game).
In 2023, teams earned $2M per unit.
If we were to use the 2023 rate for the 2011 tournament, the Big East could’ve earned a maximum of 38 units based on how the bracket was seeded. That’s $76M just off March Madness!
Football drives the bus, but college basketball money should not be overlooked.
UConn applied to join the Big 12 in 2016. Their application included a document showing statistics for its surrounding media market.
As of 2016, the university is sandwiched between the nation’s #1 and #8 markets, New York and Boston, respectively. There are 12.6 million television households in the school’s vicinity, with 79% of those households paying for cable. And finally, ESPN headquarters are 45 minutes from campus.
ESPN is one of the Big 12’s key media partners.
Not to mention the emphasis Yormark is placing on the Northeast region. Expanding the Big 12’s footprint into that area is a priority. He’s already doing so with the Rucker Park Initiative and the addition of Cincinnati. Adding UConn only helps that cause.
This could also be a move that eventually allows the Big 12 to host its annual conference basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The football championship is at the Dallas Cowboys stadium right in the heart of Texas, where football is king, and the hoops tournament is played at the basketball mecca in New York City.
What other conference could pull that off?
UConn’s recent football history has not been good. Truthfully, it’s been terrible.
I understand that and will not try to spin it any other way.
However, if we look at the body of work the Husky football program put together in the Big East conference, we get a clearer picture of what they could bring to the Big 12.
Do you remember the UConn era of Big East football? Let me refresh your memory.
West Virginia was in the BCS national title hunt, USF was the #2 ranked team in the country at one point, and Bobby Petrino’s Louisville squad won the Orange Bowl.
I’m not suggesting Big East football was “murderer’s row,” but it was certainly no slouch.
So how did UConn fair?
In 5 out of 9 seasons, the Huskies won 8 or more games. They were conference co-champions twice and played in the Fiesta Bowl once. That’s a quality football program.
So what happened?
Between conference realignments and a couple of questionable coaching hires, the football program sunk to the depths it’s currently working to escape.
They seem to be off to the right start by hiring Jim L. Mora as head coach. Coach Mora brings a wealth of experience, including head coaching stops at the Power 5 and NFL levels.
In his first season, he led the Huskies to bowl eligibility and recently received a commitment from a 4-star Texas high school quarterback.
Joining the Big 12 will enhance the UConn football program’s brand and competitive success.
Feel free to disagree, but I will not budge.
UConn to the Big 12. Period.
Follow me on Twitter/X: @imtreysmith
Subscribe to the College GameTime YouTube channel HERE
Please share this article if you enjoyed the content.