Conference Realignment: What Notre Dame’s Move To The ACC Could Mean For UConn
As we have learned this morning, Notre Dame has joined the ranks of the ship-jumpers, leaving the sinking Big East almost a year to the day that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were officially announced as future ACC members. The Irish have agreed with the ACC to move all sports except football into the conference, with the agreement that ND will play at least five football games each season against ACC opponents.
While this move obviously strengthens the ACC in both football and basketball, it’s crippling for the Big East, as its marquee members continue to leave one by one.
But the big question that everyone in Husky Nation wants to know is – how will this move effect the Huskies?
Last September, when the news first broke that Pitt and Syracuse were heading to the ACC, it was also reported that UConn was among the teams that the conference had looked at, and was possibly still looking at, as a potential new member, and the school was actively seeking an invitation to join.
Speculation quickly arose that the ACC wanted to bring the Golden Domers into the conference as well, and that UConn could be the leading candidate to become the 16th member, should they agree to do so. At the time, it was believed that Notre Dame would have to join the conference as a member in all sports, including football, which seemed unlikely due to the value the Irish place on their independent status. Now that we know the football obstacle has been removed and the Irish have been added to the conference as a 15th member, that could open the door for the Huskies – if the ACC is still interested.
UConn is not the only school that will be looking to bolt from the quickly declining Big East.
While the Huskies have the advantage of a big time athletics department – the men’s and women’s basketball, men’s soccer, field hockey and baseball teams are all national powerhouses, and the young FBS football program is growing by the year – they may lack the glitz and glamour of a major TV market that a school like Villanova or St. John’s could claim to attract.
They are also not the only big time athletics department from the Big East that may try to join the ACC, as schools such as Louisville and Rutgers may also try to make the jump.
The (Potentially) Ugly
Boston College and UConn don’t like each other. Ever since the Eagles left the Big East with Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004, there has been bad blood between the two schools. Then-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal led a lawsuit against the ACC, Miami and BC accusing them of conspiring to bring down the Big East. Jim Calhoun also swore never to play the Eagles again because of the move.
Then, during the wave of conference realignment last fall, it came out that the ACC was initially interested in adding UConn, only to have the idea vetoed by Boston College.
While Connecticut has since tried to patch things up, as both President Susan Herbst and Governor Dan Malloy have said publicly and to the Boston College administration that they would like to rekindle the New England rivalry, the Eagles have so far been resistant to the move. While current BC Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo – who was key in preventing UConn from moving to the ACC and has not indicated a shared interest in resuming a rivalry with the Huskies – will be retiring at the end of this month, it remains to be seen if his replacement will be more open to the idea of competing with Connecticut. If he is not, the Boston College obstacle could prove crippling to the chances of UConn joining the ACC and could mean being stuck in the Big East.
Though it is still too early on in the process to know what may happen, the Notre Dame move may help the Huskies solidify their future in the college sports landscape if it paves the way for them to join the ACC as well. But if they cannot maneuver their way into the latest super-conference in the making, trouble could be on the horizon of UConn, as the Big East has again been thrown into a state of severe instability and weakened by another blow in the realignment struggle.