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Once again, UConn is the most interesting program in the country

Or at least, as far as conference realignment is concerned

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

It’s been a very busy week on the phones here at Extra Points HQ, and I’m still working on talking to enough people to properly report out a much longer conference realignment newsletter. I’m hoping I can finish one that will add context to potential movements not just in the P5, but mid-major and low-major programs too. There are a lot of conversations happening right now.

But I did want to quickly highlight what I think is the most interesting potential move…UConn and the Big 12.

It’s not a message board fever dream. Earlier this week. Sports Illustrated reported that UConn was among several programs the Big 12 is considering outside of the Pac-12’s ‘Four Corners” programs, along with Memphis, UNLV, San Diego State, and others. Additional reporting from The Athletic confirmed that UConn is a potential Big 12 candidate.

I admit, as of this morning, I have not had enough conversations with directly sourced individuals to be able to report anything new here, so I can’t tell you all exactly how serious this interest is, or the timetable. Leagues have conversations with schools (or third parties representing schools) all the time that don’t turn into anything.

Whether the Big 12 will actually issue a formal invite to the Huskies isn’t actually what most interests me right now. Rather…it’s that a potential Big 12 invite may very well be an exceedingly rare example of a school turning down access to a conference with a major TV deal.

I’m thinking a lot about what UConn AD David Benedict told CTInsider here:

“I don't think money guarantees success,” Benedict said. “I think you can look around the country and identify programs in those conferences that aren't winning national championships or are competitive at that level. In some cases, members of [Power Five] conferences are still losing a lot of money on an annual basis, even though they're getting five times more than we are. So it is not a direct or the only correlative factor in demonstrated success or future success. It certainly can help offset the financial piece. But I would have no interest in going into a situation — this is me, personally, speaking — where you're going to get more money but you're not going to be competitive in anything. That is not attractive to me, at all. And that certainly was a factor in making the move back to the Big East.”

I mean, he’s exactly right!

I wrote about this last year…there’s not anywhere close to a perfect relationship between athletic budgets/spending and success. Teams with much smaller broadcast contracts than the Big Ten and the SEC make deep postseason runs and even win national titles all of the time, and other schools with massive budgets struggle. UConn, the defending national champions in men’s basketball, would understand the principle better than anybody. And remember who they beat? San Diego State!

In the Big East, UConn is never going to make $42 million a year in conference TV distributions. But that hasn’t stopped them from fielding very competitive teams in men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and other sports.

Moving to the Big 12 would likely mean a jump in over $20 million a year in TV money, and potentially more in multimedia rights. It would also mean an increase in costs…not just in travel (substantial), but in new hires, especially on the football side. Whether or not it would be “profitable” or not is probably impossible to answer with the data that folks like you and I have offhand.

The biggest reason for that spike in revenue will come from football…and even with $20 million more, it’s hard to see how UConn football would have a pathway toward regular bowl bids. The team scratched and clawed to a 6-6 regular season record, thanks to wins over a Liberty team that had given up, UMass, FIU, Central Connecticut State, Fresno…and Boston College. The team had four wins, combined, ove their other previous three seasons.

As an independent, operating in a highly limited recruiting territory, UConn can schedule games of local interest and similar competitive level, and getting to six wins on a somewhat regular basis is possible. In a world where they need to play TCU, Oklahoma State, BYU and Texas Tech every year? That might be impossible.

The UConn move to the Big East has been wildly celebrated by fans, and honestly, by many in the industry. It’s allowed UConn to play regional opponents their fans care about and helped the department focus on what they really care about (kicking ass in basketball). The Big 12 is an elite basketball conference too…but it is full of schools that UConn has no shared history or identity with.

Is that worth the money? How will fans react if, after all of these years and battles, they go back to playing UCF every year?

Maybe UConn won’t have to ever actually make that choice. Maybe this is one of the myriad conversations that conferences have with other schools that die before it gets anywhere.

But if this gets serious? Boy, that’s a tough call. For anybody else outside of a P5 league, you figure the school would probably crawl on broken glass to secure a spot.

But UConn is different.

Here’s what else we’ve been working on this week:

The plan is to hit at least one big ol’ realignment column for next week, as well as several non-realignment stories….some serious, some not-so-serious.

I can spend the time I need to hit the phones, file the FOIAs, write the stories and more, because of your subscriptions and support.

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Thanks for reading everybody. Have a great week.

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