Since the Big 12 announced that it would at least consider adding new members this summer, expansion rumors have been the talk of college athletics. While an unofficial list of 11 schools has floated around the Internet and a few serious candidates have emerged, The Daily Campus sports section has decided to take matters into its own hands with its mock Big 12 expansion. Ten staff members represented the ten Big 12 schools as their respective university’s presidents and voted on a list of the 11 candidates rumored to still be in the mix. Out of the 11 candidates, six made the cut before the final expansion members are selected next week. The sixth of the final six candidates profiled in the DC mock Big 12 expansion series is the University of Connecticut.
Originally considered a long shot, the University of Connecticut has firmly wedged itself into expansion talks. Looking at the Huskies’ résumé its downright shocking that UConn is not in a Power Five conference already.
It all starts with their basketball program. The men’s basketball team has won four national championships in the program’s history, most recently in 2011 and 2014. The program has produced several alumni that have gone on to have illustrious NBA careers, most notably Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Kemba Walker, Emeka Okafor, Andre Drummond and Rudy Gay, to name a few.
The women’s team, on the other hand, has single-handedly dominated women’s college basketball with a record 11 NCAA championships including a current run of four consecutive titles. Since head coach Geno Auriemma took control of the team in 1985, the Huskies have gone 955-134 (.877). The UConn women’s basketball team has set the standard for excellence in any sport.
UConn is the only school to have their men’s and women’s basketball programs win the national championship in the same year. They’ve done it twice (2004, 2014).
The Huskies also bring a budding football program that, while it may not be a competitor for a Big 12 title just yet, is definitely on the rise under Bob Diaco’s coaching staff. Using the Big 12 as a recruiting tactic could certainly help the program improve at a quicker rate.
The Huskies’ have a total of 20 varsity teams that have combined for 21 national championships. The men’s basketball team accounts for four, the men’s soccer team has two, field hockey has four titles of their own and of course the women’s basketball team adds 11.
In the most recent fiscal year, the UConn Athletic Department brought in $72.2 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The next closest is Brigham Young which brought in just $59 million.
If its academic prestige the Big 12 is looking to add, look no further than UConn. U.S. News & World Report has UConn ranked 57th in the nation. BYU is nine spots away at 66, and the Big 12 average is 115.5.
So why isn’t UConn a shoe-in for expansion? One word: location.
Storrs, Connecticut is 1,699 miles away from the Big 12 capital in Irving, Texas. Teams in the Big 12 are located in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and West Virginia. The Mountaineers of West Virginia are currently the outlier as the only school in the eastern part of the country. UConn would be the farthest team in the conference, possibly becoming a travel partner with West Virginia. The distance would make conference games tough, logistically speaking.
But in UConn’s biggest weakness also comes its biggest strength. The school is wedged between two of the biggest media markets in the country. The Hartford area is ranked as the 30th largest media market in the country; New York City is number one. With its relative distance to UConn and vast amounts of alumni living in the city, the New York City media market could make the distance worth it for commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12.