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Big Ten Expansion - the case for UConn

W4fxqhiff8fg0gerrp7xtchqf_mediumThe topic of Big Ten Expansion has been covered by every major and minor newspaper, TV outlet and blog since Jim Delaney made the announcement in late 2009. A quick google search of "Big Ten Expansion" gets you a mere 22,3000,000 results. We here at TDG haven't really weighed in on the issued. Clearly as bloggers of a current Big Ten institution we will be significantly impacted by the conference additions. But since virtually everyone with a keyboard has thrown out their speculation as to who, how and when I haven't seen the point in adding to the monkey pile of opinions. Essentially everything written is pure speculation. Who is going to be added? How will the conference align? What makes the most sense for the Big Ten?

So rather than throw out my own opinions I've decided to bring everyone together from the schools suggested as likely candidates for Big Ten expansion. Rather than figuring out what is best for the Big Ten, I wanted to know what the Big Ten does for these schools? As bloggers, they are representing their fan base and I want to know if they even want anything to do with the Big Ten.

I asked the following bloggers a series of questions regarding Big Ten expansion. I think most of us in Big Ten country have our wish list of school we want to add for whatever reason. Notre Dame brings a national power, Nebraska brings tradition, Texas bring Texas, Rutgers brings NYC, etc. But do these schools even want to join the Big Ten? We know what is in it for us, but also what is in it for them? And most importantly does their fan base really want to switch conferences and come to the plodding and perennially-labled overrated conference?

Up next is UConn who is kind of a sneaky dark horse in this race to Big Ten expansion. I asked Andrew at The UConn Blog to give me his thoughts on the Big Ten adding the Huskies.

At a high level the question is, what do they bring? Obviously basketball is huge (both men's and women's) but Big Ten basketball will be just fine with or without an elite program like Connecticut's. So I asked Andrew what he thinks UConn brings to the table.

What do we bring to the Big Ten? Easy. The easy answer is basketball, both an elite men's team and the elite women's program. As for football, UConn has only played 10 years in 1-A, but they've had a productive 10, including a couple of bowl victories and one of the fastest rises from 1-AA to being ranked in the Top 25. That said, the much stiffer Big Ten football competition will probably stifle the program's growth. Outside of those sports, UConn consistently has one of the best soccer teams in the country, and it has an improving baseball team that is ranked this year for the first time in decades.

Financially, we don't bring a ton to the table. We're halfway between New York and Boston, but don't necessarily penetrate those markets. If anything, we bring a nebulous (and dubious) East Coast presence, but I'm not sure what that even means.

Adding UConn brings a little prestige and is "helps" to penetrate the bigger markets mentioned above. While New York and Boston are not passionate Huskie fans, there is a large alumni base in both cities. UConn alone may not deliver those markets but they will help to penetrate. Nothing is a surefire solution to grabbing the NYC market but UConn is a piece of the puzzle for the BTN to surround the city and take it hostage. UConn by itself does very little but adding Rutgers, Syracuse and UConn is a different story.

It has to be a package deal or the Huskies don't make much sense, but a package deal wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for Husky fans. As far as rivalries go there isn't a whole lot keeping them in the Big East but bringing along a couple of the other Big East members would certainly help keep some rivalries alive.

We'd certainly lose a lot, including rivalries with a lot of the smaller basketball-only Big East schools (Georgetown and Villanova in particular). As for the rest, it depends on who came with us. Syracuse is the main team I'd like to stay close to, as they're great for all-purpose hating, and have a lovely fan base that is fun to antagonize. There is a budding football rivalry with Rutgers, but I wouldn't blink if we lost it. We've shared some battles with Pitt in basketball over the last decade, and I'd be sad to leave that behind, but it wouldn't kill me either. As for picking stuff up? I'd be excited for big time football, especially against Michigan and Ohio St. Having Michigan St. and Indiana on a basketball schedule wouldn't be so bad either.

The case for UConn is really much more about what the Big Ten do for the Huskies rather than the other way around. The Big Ten may be responsible for dramatically changing the landscape of NCAA athletics, conference alignment and ultimately the death of the Big East. So joining the Big Ten is about more money for their athletic department and equally as significant they have a conference home.

Positives? That's easy. UConn would get to stay in a conference. No matter how this thing shakes out, it seems that if the Big Ten expands past 12 teams (i.e. takes anyone beyond Notre Dame), it probably means the end of the Big East. Now, that death isn't the end of the world, as several teams could potentially wind up in the ACC, but it is starting to look like a high stakes game of musical chairs, and I just want UConn to find somewhere to sit ASAP. Thats the positive on UConn's base "survival" level. After that the Big Ten brings piles and piles and piles of money, which would be quite nice. As for negatives? Most of them revolve around geography (Sure, UConn traviling to Minnesota for football would be fine, for field hockey it seems a bit arduous) and losing traditional rivals. In the larger scheme of things, a lot of these wind up being minor concerns, but they're concerns nonetheless.

So the answer to my final question to Andrew is pretty obvious. I asked him, does UConn want to join the Big Ten followed up by is it going to happen?

On an institutional level, it'd be great for UConn to join the Big 10. It would mean a lot more money for the school, and help it grown in just about every aspect. As a sports fan, there is plenty to like, though my main concern is just having a conference to play in. If I could be king of sports, I'd decree that UConn and Syracuse have to stick together no matter what. I think the best fit in that case might be an expanded ACC with UConn/Syracuse/BC forming part of a northern division with Maryland and the Virginia schools, but UConn and Cuse in some Eastern Big Ten division isn't bad either.

As for if I see it will actually happen, it seems unlikely, just because the Big Ten wants other schools more. That said, if UConn gets an offer to join, the should accept it immediately, and I'd be very happy with that. The strength and security of the conference would be unmatched, and it'd be a great deal for the school.

Chances are rather slim and likely dependent on how many teams are added followed by which (if any) teams say no. If the Big Ten expands to 16 and Notre Dame says no, then UConn becomes a strong candidate. The smart money is on a less aggressive expansion with UConn still scrambling for a chair.

From a basketball perspective it would be fun to see UConn in the conference and as far as football it is another program not expected to hurt Minnesota's chances of winning a Big Ten title for the first time in a couple generations. The University of Connecticut is a fine institution with a couple elite basketball programs, but I for one am hoping the Big Ten goes in another direction.