UConn: Bye, Felicia!


My reaction over the weekend when it was leaked that the University of Connecticut would be leaving the AAC for the Big East was not unlike that Ice Cube gif (left).

Bye, Felicia!

Because no matter how much UConn huffed and puffed and tried to resuscitate its failing football program, the patient died as a result of some pretty bad administrative decisions. (Hiring a hot assistant doesn’t always work as Bob Diaco the assistant coach of the year for Notre Dame turned into a nightmare as a head coach for UConn.)

Really, what was the difference between what happened to Temple in 2003 and UConn now? The Big East then kicked Temple out for what it perceived to be (their words) “non-competitiveness” when, in reality, Temple was regularly beating some teams that the Big East decided to keep.

UConn was beating really nobody last year in football and its once dynamite men’s basketball program was in the middle of the league’s pack. (Hell, it’s now hard to pick out Geoff Collins’ worst loss: 2018 Villanova or 2017 UConn. Both times he played arguably the second-best quarterback on the team so it might be a toss-up.)

The AAC probably didn’t have the stones to kick out UConn like the Big East did to Temple back then so, in effect, what the UConn leaders did this week a favor to the AAC. There is no chance the league allows UConn to take out both of its good programs (men’s and women’s basketball) and leave its one crappy program (football).

Good riddance.

Temple, in my mind, belongs in the Power 5 but that doesn’t appear on the horizon soon and, failing that, we have to accept where we are now and UConn leaving the league improves our lot at least a little bit.

Now the American can add a team like BYU (not likely) or Buffalo/Army (more likely). They would have to figure out a way to flip the Army/Navy week and the league championship weeks and that might be an insurmountable hurdle. If so, then the league turns to Buffalo, which more fits the AAC profile of larger TV markets and has a program that is immediately ready to compete in the two highest-profile sports. AAC would have the top G5 market (Philadelphia, 4) plus Dallas-Ft. Worth (5), Washington D.C. (Navy, 9th), Tampa-St. Pete (USF, 13th), Orlando (UCF, 19th), Cincinnati (34th), Memphis (48th) and Buffalo (51) and New Orleans (Tulane, 53). That’s a lot of eyeballs.

Buffalo would be the logical choice, about the same distance away as UConn for Temple fans, and a current upgrade in both sports.

That should and will probably be the successful Northeast school that replaces the unsuccessful departed one.

Saturday: The Latest Hit Piece on Temple football

Monday: A Week of Best of TFFs




26 thoughts on “UConn: Bye, Felicia!

  1. IMO TU got the boot from the BE due to a severe lack of administrative support from your school at the time (Rutgers was horrid on the field but off the field was starting to put things together under Schiano/Mulcahy; TU was taking whatever money the BE was giving them and doing who knows what with it), along with the stadium situation being totally up in the air (Vet was closing, Linc was opening and there was no agreement in place for TU) without seemingly any sense of urgency on the school’s part to get something done. If the Golden hire occurred in say 2001 it’s probably a different story.

    Joe P.

  2. Is it possible to think bigger than Buffalo? If the ultimate goal might be for Temple to move UP to a Power 5 conference, can it be done through the back door??

    What if the AAC was able to attract, say an Oklahoma or Texas? Would the schools in the AAC be prepared to shoulder the costs of convincing a program such as that?

    The structure is there, either team would have multiple natural rivals and from what I’ve read, the Big 12 is on the shakiest ground of any of the Power 5 conferences.

    I know it’s a pipe dream, but it ain’t all that much crazier an idea of the Owls getting invited to the ACC.

    • Neither Texas nor Oklahoma would ever agree to join a G-5 Conference. While the Big 12 is on shaky grounds, both Oklahoma and Texas are prime candidates for the SEC, which now has 14 teams. The best the AAC could hope for is picking up one or two of the remaining schools like West Virginia and TCU, both of which would fit well geographically with several members of the Conference. They’ll only join as a last resort though. WVU likely would be asked to join the ACC.

      • Yeah John, you are right of course. But my assumption, and I know this ain’t likely, would be that if the Big 12 broke apart, the AAC would step into the void and become a Power 5 school.

        In other words, maybe they should go slow with replacing UConn right now and see how things shake out in a year or two.

        It is not a given that Texas and Oklahoma move as a couple. Money talks right? What would it take, besides a Power 5 guarantee, to attract a Texas or Oklahoma?

  3. Old Dominion is improving steadily and has a big metro media market (Tidewater Area is 45th). I like all of your replacement ideas. TV rating drive the ball, so a spotting a diamond in the rough with lots of TVs will work. What do we do with programs like ECU and Tulane,

  4. The city of Buffalo TV market and their overall sports program makes them a good choice. Marshall might be a possibility too? I was also thinking Ohio U.

  5. No need to grab a 12th team just for the sake of 12. 11 lets you ditch divisions, let’s you pick the best 2 teams for the conference championship game and gives 11 teams the same amount of money as 12 were taking.

    • But you only get that with a round robin schedule. For a league that is dependent on OOC games to build value and add some money no way you’re going to cut their choices down to two games a year. Not to mention for a league this is super spread out, you’re maximizing travel costs as well.

      Buffalo is a good option, though I’d prefer Charlotte over them.

      • No, you pick your highest ranked 2 teams for the Championship game. B12 does this. They don’t play 10 conference games.

  6. Because the BIG 12 only has 10 teams, thus a 9 game round robin, the AAC would have 11 teams meaning a 10 game round robin, thus leaving only two OOC games. You can only have a CCG if you have even divisions OR play a complete Round Robin. And the NCAA isn’t going to grant the AAC a waiver. Again, you’re only leaving 2 OOC games and maximizing budgets. They either need to ADD a team, or strike a deal with Navy to have them leave the conference. 11 teams is not going to work.

  7. perhaps 11 teams for just one season, move to 12 teams in 2021 or 2020.

    The AAC is in the catbird seat.

    Let Buffalo, Army, Toledo, FAU, FIU, App St, etc., compete for the 12th spot.

    This is all very interesting, thats all. Now more than ever, Temple needs to focus exclusively on Temple.., how can TUFB dominate year after year?

    Four Pillars of a successful program:

    First step, hire a good coach and keep him. (Perhaps done, we shall see)

    Second, out-recruit the conference. (Making great strides)

    Third, win your conference championship. (Winning the conference championship is infinitely more important than beating the P5 teams on the schedule)

    Fourth, win your bowl game and finish in the Top 25.

    Chase the Trifecta

    • KJ, I mentioned all those same schools in a Temple article on Facebook. FAU and FIU each have pretty big markets and would be an instant rival for UCF and USF – a bit Florida heavy perhaps. Altho the conference has one school for football only (Navy) and one for basketball only (Whichita), if decent basketball is a consideration Charlotte maybe would be the best choice. If basketball doesn’t matter FAU. FIU, Buffalo or Marshall (TV?) all have good programs and TV markets.

  8. Of all the teams mentioned above as a possible replacement for UConn. the only I like is Marshall . Successful football program . The size of their football stadium, is comparable to most teams in the AAC. Charlotte is a horrible choice to replace UConn, if your reasoning is because it’s a large media market.,

    Don’t really care about the size of the media market. It’s all about the TV ratings. Especially when most college football games broadcast only on cable channels or are live streamed. Just add a program providing a product ( football) that will generate ratings.

    Besides, look at most teams in the SEC conference. The largest media market is Nashville ( Vandy ).

  9. I like Army. They have rebuilt their football program into a very successful one (don’t we know that!). Being a well known service academy, Army commands attention nation wide. I think the Black Knights are primed and ready for an invitation and would work out something with Navy re the date of their traditional rivalry game. My last tour of duty was at West Point, and I am aware of the incredible loyalty of its graduates (Career Army or not) and what they do and will do for Army’s football program, including attendance at games.

    • Academically, Army would be the best choice. For football, the worst. Who wants to play two triple option teams in one season? Nobody.

      And, the scheduling of the AAC Championship Game and the Army/Navy game is a bridge too far.

      Toledo (instant rivalry Cincy), Appalachian St (instant rivalry ECU), FAU, or FIU would be the best additions.

      • BYU made unrealistic demands (mostly about TV) the last time. AAC should tell them take the offer equal to what the other members have or take a hike and we’ll extend to Buffalo within a year. I agree we are in the catbird seat in that regard. Why cut the pie in 12 pieces when you can cut it in 11? Of course, BYU makes up for what it doesn’t bring in TV market (second 100, Provo) with 60K fannies in the seats every game,. I’ve been to Provo. Nice town but about the size of Harrisburg.

      • BYU would be a good choice. The last time the Owls played them at the Vet, the crowd was over 45,000. They always back their teams.

  10. why would BYU want to fly across country 6 times per season? and, adding BYU would have a serious negative impact on the rest of the league’s travel budget.

    I live in Hawaii, and season travel wears the football team here academically, financially, and on field performance.

    Add Toledo or Appalachian St.

  11. Whatever school is added, it should be competitive in a couple sports as well as offering geographic functionality.

    ODU, mentioned earlier, would be a good fit. A natural for Navy, good neighboring rivalry for ECU, slightly reduces miles traveled for the league, a bit more temperate than November in E Hartford.

    Marshall has a good football tradition and is well-supported by fans (what else is there to rally around in Huntington?). But Cincinnati might not be too anxious to bring in a competitor to their recruiting area.

    All this a result of UConn hiring a hot coordinator. Their program apparently won’t recover. Noted on N. Broad, hopefully.

  12. The last time around the AAC had nooo bargaining power. This time the AAC is recognized as the MOST competitive G5 conference with more P5 wins than any other conference. It would not be wise to add a smaller school like toledo or app or buff just to fill the void. Reach for the stars and try and get boise, byu, army, or some other bigger name. We now have negotiating power. USE IT ARESCO

    • None of the “bigger names” have much basketball punch. Interestingly, AL Birmingham UAB was mentioned in another article – the city is sizeable and they’re a pretty good bb school.

  13. I subscribe to The Athletic sports page and not too sure how to provide a link via my phone, so sorry for the length of this post, but thought people would like to see it nonetheless.

    NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden was decked out on Thursday as it so often has been before, with the logo of the old (and new) Big East hanging next to that of the Connecticut Huskies. Lighted signs did not just welcome UConn to the venue, but they made sure to welcome UConn back — back where it belonged.

    It was not lost on anyone in attendance for Thursday’s news conference that it was being held inside a historic basketball arena. Not a football stadium. With no head football coach present. The reason is simple: UConn football is not coming back to the Big East like its men’s and women’s basketball programs are.

    And it’s not entirely clear where UConn’s football program is actually going.

    The Huskies will compete as members of the American Athletic Conference this fall, and their briefly held hope that they could stay on as football-only members has been extinguished. They could be league-less as early as the 2020 season.

    “When a school takes its best product — men’s and women’s basketball — to another conference, it’s not going to play football in our conference,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told The Athletic on Thursday night. “Our membership has made that clear.

    “We don’t have any interest in UConn as a football-only member.”

    Another option that appears highly unlikely? Immediately dropping down to the Football Championship Subdivision.

    “It’s not in our line of thinking,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said Thursday. “Because we’ve invested heavily in football, and we have unbelievable facilities. We think we can be very successful at the Division I-A (FBS) level. And that’s what our focus is right now.”

    Thomas C. Katsouleas, who takes over as UConn’s president Aug. 1, said his and the school’s “preference” would be to be part of a conference, rather than give it a go as an FBS independent.

    “There are some nice examples — like Navy is a football-only participant in a conference,” Katsouleas said. “That works well when you’re trying to support 20-plus sports and one conference doesn’t necessarily fit all. That’s basically the strategy.”

    But if no conferences are willing to do that — and that appears to be the case — UConn could be forced to go independent.

    Benedict said he’s already received inquiries about scheduling from “schools that not only our current student-athletes and coaches but our fans would all really, really enjoy seeing us play.”

    A person with knowledge of the matter said schools in the northeast as well as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference would be most attractive to UConn for future scheduling purposes.

    Other independents, like Army and BYU, would also likely be approached.

    “We’re committed to Division I football,” Benedict said. “When we brought Randy (Edsall) back (in 2017), we certainly had no idea that this was going to come about, but there’s no better person situated to take us through this transition. He took us through the transition from FCS to FBS (in the early 2000s). And he’s going to take us through this transition, whatever that amounts to be.”

    Benedict said he planned to have further conversations with Aresco about a football-only membership, but Aresco made it clear by Thursday night that any effort along those lines would be futile.

    “It’s one thing to have Wichita State (without football) and Navy (football-only),” Aresco said. “But we’re not looking for hybrid members.”

    In other words, Aresco is clearly saying “thank you, next.”

    The AAC doesn’t necessarily need to replace UConn, either. An 11-member league allows for a double round-robin 20-game basketball schedule, and it also allows for a football championship game to continue with no tweaks required if the league maintains divisions, or via waiver from the NCAA if it abandons divisions.

    “We will continue to play a championship game; I can promise you that,” Aresco said. “But we’re not in the business of raiding other conferences. … (If we look at adding a member), it’s going to be a deliberate process. We don’t need to do anything. If we’re stronger at 11, which we might well be, we’ll stay at 11. If there’s someone who can enhance our brand and strengthen our league, we’ll be thoughtful and deliberate.”

    Which again brings UConn back to its Plan B, which it may turn to quickly: Independence. This is different from waving a white flag for football entirely, Benedict insisted.

    “To suggest that anybody that’s playing football that really doesn’t have a realistic path to the to an autonomy five conference has given up on football? I don’t agree with that statement,” Benedict said. “Because to me, that’s not necessarily what it’s all about. … There’s a lot of money that’s associated with that.

    “But that is not the core of what we do every day … with our student-athletes, developing these kids, giving them an opportunity to transform their lives. And that’s what’s most important. Obviously, we want to be as competitive as we possibly can.”

    When asked whether it could be possible for football to become financially viable in the future, Benedict said it comes down to winning games “and we haven’t done a great job of that.”

    But there’s more to it than just winning, particularly for a school and state that has spent a great deal of money to build a football program it thought could compete with the big boys.

    Connecticut legislature spent $92 million to build a football stadium in East Hartford after UConn decided to move up from I-AA (now FCS) to I-A (now FBS) in 1997. The high point for the Huskies program in the years that followed was a Fiesta Bowl game appearance at the conclusion of the 2010 season.

    UConn has not had a winning record in any season since.

    And, as a member of the AAC, its athletic department posted a $40 million deficit in 2018. (UConn is expecting to save about $2 million per year in travel costs for all sports by moving back to the Big East; officials are hoping the decrease in costs like that will help offset the loss of AAC television revenue.)

    But if football is costing so much and bringing in such dismal returns, how much longer is it worth sponsoring at a high level?

    That is a question UConn does not want to answer right now. Athletic department officials are hopeful that independence could work, and they look at UMass as a potential model. The Minutemen are the only state school in New England that competes in the FBS, and they have been independent since 2015. The UMass schedule this fall includes Rutgers, Northwestern, UConn and fellow independents Army, BYU and Liberty, in addition to a smattering of Conference USA opponents and the like. It’s relatively easy to fill September dates, but when other schools are in conference play, it is significantly harder.

    Buy games against Power Five opponents — something UConn isn’t opposed to doing — normally fall in September for that reason, too.

    UConn already has a buy game scheduled with Clemson for 2021 worth $1.2 million, and it has scheduled home-and-home series through 2025 against Illinois, Indiana, Duke, Purdue, Boston College and North Carolina State. That’s a start, but it’s hardly a full slate. And none of that helps with scheduling for the 2020 season, which may now have eight open dates.

    “All my focus and work has been on getting this program and facilities back to where we all want it regardless of WHERE WE PLAY OR WHO WE PLAY,” head coach Randy Edsall wrote in a statement Wednesday. “I’m leaving the decision up to the Board of Trustees, University Leadership and Athletic Director to find the best situation for our Football Program.”

    Edsall’s statement was a sobering message amid so much glee and celebration about the rest of the athletic department’s return to the Big East.

    Football felt like a bit of an afterthought — which it is.

    (Photo: David Butler II / USA Today)

  14. Now JMU would like an invite to the party!

    • Not a big-enough stadium (20K)
      Aresco is wise to wait a year or two unless BYU wants to jump in; that’s effectively like getting a P5 school anyway.

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