WNPR

Big 12 Dashes UConn's Hopes of "Power Five" Conference Membership

Oct 18, 2016

UConn will not be moving to the Big 12 after all. After months of speculation, the athletic conference decided Monday to nix plans for expansion, dashing the hopes of UConn and 10 other schools who were under consideration to join.

Considered one of the big five athletic conferences, the Big 12 had been contemplating an expansion of two to four new schools for almost two years, as a way to increase revenue and improve the conference’s chances to make the College Football Playoff.

Two years ago, the Big 12 was not invited to the collegiate playoff because they did not play a conference championship game. The addition of more school would have made it easier for the league to split into divisions and stage this required title game.

Monday afternoon in Dallas, the presidents of the 10 existing Big 12 Schools decided to scrap expansion plans altogether.

The Big 12's TV partners, namely Connecticut-based ESPN and Fox Sports were opposed to expansion, and had proposed a lucrative payout to the conference to stand pat at 10 teams. This saves the networks $25 million a year for each school that joins the expansion in the process. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not acknowledge whether that proposal played into the decision by the conference.

Now that the Big 12 has made their decision, UConn will have to mull over their options for the future. It could include staying in the American Athletic Conference, or seeking readmission to the Big East for basketball and other sports, leaving the football program to join another conference.

Had the Big 12 decided to expand, and chosen fellow AAC schools Cincinnati and Houston, UConn would have been stuck in a conference dramatically weakened by the departure.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco believes the AAC has the potential to become a "Power Six" conference. That dream is closer to reality now that the Big 12 is sticking with 10 schools.