NEWPORT, R.I.–According to sources familiar to the situation, the Big 12 Conference has contacted the University of Connecticut to discuss setting up a meeting to gauge the school’s interest in joining the Big 12.
Big 12 officials have reportedly sent similar messages to several other schools.
The Big 12 announced recently it was planning to expand its 10-school league by two, or four, teams.
Contacting UConn is not a surprise. And the Huskies have expressed an interest. The logistics of whether Big 12 officials come to the UConn campus or UConn officials visit the Big 12 have yet to be announced–which is also not guaranteed.
UConn athletic director David Benedict was non committal at the meetings in Newport, stating that what the Huskies had to offer was obvious. “”All we can do is wait and see what happens,” said Benedict.
What was left unsaid was what UConn’s options would be if the Big 12 goes in a different reaction and leaves UConn as part of a conference that has been hit with major defections.
UConn must then examine its options, would be to break away from the American to the Big East in all sports but football, as well as finding a landing place for football if the American refuses (expected) a proposition in which the Huskies would stay in the American for football only.
When asked about that idea, American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco merely shook his head and laughed. “”We will deal with everything we have to deal with,” he said.
The American Athletic Conference, has several schools that might be interesting in leaving for the Big 12.
Aresco, at the league’s Tuesday media day in Newport, R.I., acknowledged that he expects to lose some schools to expansion.
Other AAC schools ripe for Big 12 targeting include Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida.
Aresco addressed the subject of losing teams to the Big 12 as part of the landscape of college athletics, but said the American Athletic Conference would endure.
“”I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Aresco told me after his press conference on Tuesday, in which he talked about the overall strength of the conference and its determination to prosper under any circumstances. “We will probably take some hits, but I’m not sure how many.”
When asked to comment on the apparent reluctance of the Big 12 television partners Fox and ESPN to add more money to the pot without a requisite rise in quality, Aresco, a former television executive at CBS sports, laughed.
“It’s part of the negotiating plan by the networks,” he said. “”That happens all the time. A lot has to happen. They (Big 12) might only add two teams (which probably only be one school from the American leaving). We will adjust to that. If it’s four schools, then we will have to deal with that.”
Aresco said the silver lining in losing teams will be a positive cash flow to the American bank account–perhaps as much as 40 million in exit fees or more). “”You don’t want that to happen,” he said. “”But that (the extra money) would obviously help.”
Aresco said there is no set plan for adding new teams if there are defections. The American is currently at 12, but with new legislation in place allowing for a championship game with only 10 teams, Aresco said the American might not return to 12 teams.
“”We have to see who would be available,” he said. “Twelve has worked well for us. We just have to look at the landscape.”
This might be the last puzzle piece in what has been a dizzying reshuffling of the national collegiate landscape.
Getting into the Big 12 could be the last chance, at least for a while, for schools outside the Power 5 leagues to get into a major conference, which would mean increased revenue and greater access to the College Football Playoff.
The Big 12 reportedly wants to expand sooner, rather than later, which could mean expansion offers may be arriving in weeks, as opposed to months.