UConn publicly expresses interest in joining Big 12


It’s about time. On the subject of conference realignment, UConn was surprisingly quiet. However, news broke this week that president Susan Herbst, pictured above, wrote a letter to the Big 12 commissioner. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

After months of silence, UConn has finally spoken out on the Big 12’s plan to expand.

UConn President Susan Herbst wrote a letter dated July 25 to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, making it clear that UConn is vying for a spot in a Power Five conference. The contents of the letter were obtained by the Hartford Courant via a Freedom of Information Act request.

“On behalf of the University of Connecticut, I am expressing our strong interest in membership in the Big 12 conference,” Herbst says in the letter. “I look forward to meeting with you and other Big 12 officials to fully discuss our athletic and academic success.”

The Huskies are one of as many as 20 schools rumored to be in competition for either two or four spots in the Big 12 conference in a list tweeted out by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy in mid-August. Opposing schools vary from constantly rumored candidates like BYU, Houston and Cincinnati to schools such as Arkansas State and Northern Illinois.

According to an interview with the Iowa State Daily roughly a week ago, Iowa State president Steven Leath told reporters that Big 12 expansion could happen “between now and Christmas time.”

With a decision likely in the near future, the American Athletic Conference is making contingency plans. The American figures to be one of the Group of Six conferences impacted most from Big 12 expansion, as many strong candidates — Houston, Cincinnati, UConn and Memphis — are current American members.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco addressed previous Big 12 expansion rumors on Aug. 2 at the American Football Media Day in Newport, Rhode Island .

“Big XII expansion, if it happens, and it appears probable, will again change the landscape of college athletics,” Aresco said at media day. “As presently constituted, the American is a Power Six conference, and it deserves that designation. We have been incredibly competitive.”

‘Power Six’ was a phrase that Aresco frequently mentioned in his opening address, calling the  American a competitive equal to the conferences more commonly known as the Power Five. Even as he extolled his conference’s strengths and praised the people involved, Aresco talked backup plans should one or multiple members leave the American, and pointed to the conference’s three-year history of adapting and surviving.

“We’re going to get right back to building the league if something does happen,” Aresco said. “There was skepticism, and look what we’ve accomplished, even under the shadow of near-constant conference realignment speculation over the last few years.”

Tyler Keating is associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.

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