Approximately one month ago, ESPN’s Andy Katz reported the Big East’s interest in UConn.
Fast forward to about one week ago, former Boston Globe staffer Mark Blaudschun reports Connecticut’s desire to rejoin the Big East.
As Blaudschun points out, the Huskies main goal is to find a spot in the Power 5. UConn is currently seeking an invitation to the Big 12 Conference.
But what happens if the Big 12 expands without Connecticut? Blaudschun writes that UConn is finished dwindling in the American Athletic Conference.
One possibility he mentions is UConn seeking a football-only membership in the Mid-American, Conference-USA, Mountain West, or Sun Belt, while placing all other sports in the Big East.
Jerry McGuire of the Journal Inquirer points out why Blaudschun’s sources should be taken seriously. He mentions that Blaudschun was the first to report the departure of former UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel to Michigan.
Still - those sources could be close enough to UConn that they serve as a "trial balloon’ - a way to gauge reaction without taking action.
We do not know what is going to happen to the Big 12, their conference has basked in the recent glow of being unpredictable. But UConn could be a fantastic addition for the Big East.
First and foremost, UConn would increase the basketball profile of the conference. Villanova’s most recent National Championship has helped, but the Big East had struggled to earn national recognition for their success. Adding UConn would certainly solidify this conference’s basketball reputation.
Since 1999, UConn has won four NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships. That is more than any school in that same time period. Connecticut has won numerous Big East Championships, while sending many great players to the NBA. That’s without even mentioning the dynasty Geno Auriemma has built with the women’s team.
Aside from the stellar basketball UConn would bring the Big East, the Huskies could also be a tremendous asset for the conference fiscally.
Back in 2013, Fox Sports 1 offered the Big East $500 million to broadcast their basketball games. So far, the Big East has had a tough time attracting viewers with an average on FS1 of 93,000 last year. Although this is an increasing number, this is no where near the average viewership of a college basketball game on an ESPN network. ESPN networks drew an average of 448,000 eyeballs per college basketball game last season.
Adding UConn should help those television numbers. The Huskies bring tons of television sets from the Hartford-New Haven market, which Nielsen lists as the 30th largest media market in America. Below you can find the size of each Big East teams home media market.
St. John’s / Seton Hall (New York, NY)- #1
DePaul (Chicago, IL)- #3
Villanova (Philadelphia, PA)- #4
Georgetown (Washington, D.C)- #8
Butler (Indianapolis, IN)- #27
**UConn (Hartford-New Haven, CT)- #30
Marquette (Milwaukee, WI)- #35
Xavier (Cincinnati, OH)- #36
Providence (Providence, RI / New Bedford, MA)- #52
Creighton (Omaha, NE)- #74
In addition to the television sets UConn would bring from Connecticut, they also bring a huge presence in New York City. The New York Times conducted a study to determine the popularity of college football teams. Results showed UConn as the fourth most popular team in the big apple.
Despite the chart above representing college football allegiance, we can assume UConn basketball draws equally as well, if not better than the numbers provided.
Back when UConn was a Big East school, Husky fans consistently packed Madison Square Garden come Big East Tournament week.
“...UConn did make it back to their former home-away-from-home, and that has been plenty to send prices soaring. Prices for the Friday night session are up 60% since UConn advanced with their win over Villanova. Just a Metro North-ride away from Manhattan, it seems both alum and students are doing whatever they can to get their hands on the first NCAA Tournament tickets at the Garden in 53 years.”
An interesting note the keep in mind is that Fairfield County, CT actually is considered to be in New York, NY television market.
Adding UConn would help the Big East improve their TV ratings, which in turn would give the conference more leverage come time to re-negotiate with Fox Sports.
The idea of Connecticut rejoining the Big East is still unlikely, but it could be gaining some steam. Big 12 expansion will have a domino effect across the nation, it may affect the Big East more than fans may have originally thought.