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How will UConn's move to the Big East affect its athletic department finances?

Alex Putterman, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Basketball

HARTFORD, Conn. -- When UConn officially exits the American Athletic Conference to join the Big East, likely in July of next year, the move will have a dramatic effect on all aspects of the Huskies' athletic department.

The men's basketball team will renew old rivalries. The women's basketball team will face somewhat more challenging competition. The football team could be left without a league to play in, at least temporarily. And then there are the finances of an athletic department that spent $41 million more in 2018 than it generated in revenue.

Though it's too early to know just how the change in conference will affect the UConn athletic department's bottom line, the fallout figures to be positive in some ways and negative in others.

"Initially we have more costs," UConn president Susan Herbst said in late June, at a press conference announcing the conference change. "But through more revenues, ticket sales, donors, decreased travel and then our continued work on efficiencies, we're not worried about (finances) at all."

Michael Leeds, a sports economist at Temple University, says that while the conference change could work from a financial standpoint if UConn basketball thrives in the Big East, it does come with potential danger. As most college athletic departments build around football programs, which tend to be the most lucrative, UConn has gone all-in on hoops.

"It really goes against the grain," Leeds said. "(UConn) is going to the one basketball-centered conference that has really made a success of things, so in a way it's playing into what may be a best-case scenario for this. But I think it's still a big, big risk."

 

Here are some of the ways jumping leagues will change the financial math of the Huskies' athletic department.

-- TV revenue

UConn received $2.16 million in 2018 as part of the ESPN-AAC TV deal that is set to expire next year and stood to earn about $7 million in future years as part of a new agreement that was announced this spring. How much the school receives as a Big East member is subject to several variables:

Whether UConn gets a full revenue share (around $4 million) in its early years in the conference. Leagues typically offer reduced initial pay-outs for new members, awarding them only part of what incumbent members receive.

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