With the future of UConn football now up in the air with the school’s planned move to the Big East for the 2020-21 seaason, a source told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd on Saturday that the American Athletic Conference will not accept UConn as a football-only member. The Big East does not sponsor football as a conference, which would leave the Huskies program in limbo.
“I think they’re under the assumption they’re going to stay in our league [for football],” an AAC source told Dodd.
UConn does not plan to move its football program out of the FBS as it looks for a new home. One option is to become the seventh independent FBS team, joining Notre Dame, BYU, Army West Point, New Mexico State, UMass and Liberty.
Should UConn go through with its expected withdrawal from the AAC, the school would be subject to a $10 million buyout. High buyouts have not deterred others schools from changing conferences in the modern age of realignment. The $10 million figure could be negotiated, and some schools have challenged such buyouts in court.
UConn’s move would affect the rest of its athletic programs.this expected move is largely designed to help return men’s basketball to the more familiar brand of the Big East. However, the women’s basketball program would also prefer to leave the AAC, and Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma has privately pushed for the move as well, the source added.
The Big East has scheduled a call for early next week in which its presidents are expected to ratify UConn’s return,. UConn’s Board of Trustees has planned to vote and approve the move on Wednesday, but media reports may accelerate the timeline.
“I’d be surprised if this ends pretty,” a second source told Norlander, noting that the AAC is not going to make this transition easy on the program. “… [The Huskies] never fully embraced the American.”
A formal announcement of the Big East approving the return of UConn to the conference is planned for Thursday in New York at Madison Square Garden, a third source told Norlander.
The AAC’s newly signed $1 billion TV deal with ESPN would not be negated by UConn’s planned departure. An 11-team AAC would possibly require what was termed a “fair negotiation” of the contract, a source told Dodd.
UConn’s departure from the AAC and the future landing spot for its football program could cause a mini-round of conference realignment, an on-campus source told Dodd. An 11-team AAC would make the league the FBS’s second-smallest conference next to the Big 12.
If the AAC reached out for a 12th member, what are the options? There are few — if any — big name schools that would substantially add to the conference’s bottom line.