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UConn on verge of joining the Big East, football likely in need of a landing spot outside AAC

Mike Anthony, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Basketball

HARTFORD, Conn. -- UConn is on the verge of joining the Big East for all sports that the conference sponsors including basketball, sources confirmed Saturday. Though the university is awaiting and fully expecting an official invitation from the Big East, an announcement of the Huskies' move is forthcoming.

This move will return UConn to its storied basketball roots and trigger long-term security and better opportunity for its two programs in that sport. However, UConn must figure out what to do with its football program because the primary Big East schools do not play that sport. Dropping the program is not being considered. It is highly unlikely that the American Athletic Conference would have interest in retaining UConn as a football-only member, though with scheduling done well in advance the Huskies are expected to play in the AAC for the upcoming season.

UConn will have to find another conference for football by the 2020 season or have the program operate as an independent. Details are still being negotiated on several fronts, including financial. UConn has explored a move to the Big East in recent years but found several sticking points, including high exit fees.

The timing of the move for basketball and other sports is also uncertain, though the Huskies are expected to compete in the AAC for at least one more season.

The AAC exit fee is $10 million and members schools are required to give 27 months notice. The fee would have to be negotiated if UConn leaves earlier than September 2022.

The move was first reported by Digital Sports Desk, a Boston-based website.

 

Reached Saturday, a UConn athletics department spokesperson said in a statement: "It is our responsibility to always be mindful of what is in the best interest of our student athletes, our fans and our future. With that being said we have been and remain proud members of the American Athletic Conference."

The Big East had no comment, a conference spokesperson said.

Any deal would need the approval of UConn's Board of Trustees. Thomas Ritter, chairman of the board, declined comment Saturday morning.

While the move solidifies the school's basketball programs that will play against storied rivals, football will remain a question mark. The team won just one game last year and three in each of the two years prior. Attendance has also dipped dramatically with the school announcing about 21,000 tickets distributed per game last season, down from 2010 when it was above 38,000 tickets.

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