Editorial: With Big 12 out of the picture, university must figure out next step for athletics

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, right, and Oklahoma President David Boren take their seat to speak to reporter after The Big 12 Conference meeting in Grapevine, Texas, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The Big 12 Conference has decided against expansion from its current 10 schools after three months of analyzing, vetting and interviewing possible new members. (LM Otero/AP Photo)

On Oct. 17, Big 12’s university presidents and commissioner Bob Bowlsby decided not to expand their conference, which means that the University of Connecticut will remain in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). For months, UConn has been appealing to the Big 12 conference in an attempt to win a spot in their conference and in turn, have a piece in the Power Five. However, the university has no prospects in becoming a Power Five university, and it has lost considerable amounts of money in this process.  

The University of Connecticut prepared a presentation in September in response to a request for information from the Big 12 conference to display the highlights of including the university in the conference. It cost $43,000 to make the presentation, which included three videos, a letter from Gov. Dan Malloy, travel information to the other Big 12 universities and academic and sports highlights from the school. The only possibilities for this expensive presentation now are to utilize it for recruiting and fundraising for the school.

UConn President Susan Herbst said that she expected that the Big 12 conference would decide not to expand. If that were the case, why would she decide to waste that money and her time which could be utilized trying to help the university in ways she thinks would be successful.

The prospects of joining the Big 12 conference were exciting for the university. As a part of the Power Five, the university would gain publicity and money from television contracts and media deals. The difference between the Big 12 and the AAC is considerable; the Big 12 announced that its members earned $30.4 million last year, while the AAC members made $18 million for all of its members combined. President Herbst said that creating the presentation and this process helped her better understand the AAC, for which she serves as a chairman for the board of directors, in terms of its athletic spectrum and UConn’s place within it.

UConn has a $72 million operating budget, which would place it ninth among the Big 12. Despite the fact that President Herbst claims the universities within the AAC play at the same level as the Big 12, UConn does not receive the same profits as the Big 12 members, and it would be foolish to assume that the AAC will get similar media and television deals any time soon. It is important that the university resolves the output and input of funding on athletics.