The Coleumn: How a missed PAT caused realignment chaos

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UConn plays against UMass in Amherst, MA on Saturday, Oct. 9. UMass beat UConn 27-13. Photo by Taylor Coonan/Daily Campus

On November 25, 2017, the University of Connecticut football team took on the University of Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium. It was coming down to the wire; Bearcats quarterback Hayden Moore had just run himself into the endzone to give Cincinnati a 22-15 lead with 1:28 left.  

The Huskies used the remaining time to march down the field and score a touchdown of their own. All they had to do was make the PAT. Instead of turning into Tom Brady and/or Aaron Rodgers with under two minutes left in the game, they turned into the River City Relay Saints and missed the PAT to lose by a point.  

It was an insignificant conference game to wrap up both team’s seasons at the time but having been able to escape their season finale with the victory, the Bearcats would make major improvements that would cause dominoes to fall in the NCAA universe. 

Let me be clear, the following moves I am going to mention are 95% related to college football, so any theories that we have about college hoops will be temporarily thrown out the window. 

Since that eventful finish, the Bearcats are 38-6, sitting dominantly at No. 2 in the most recent AP coaches poll. Last season, they were not considered tough enough for the CFP, but this season, they are for real and should be a fun team to watch down the stretch. 

Meanwhile, after years spent traveling through the American Athletic Conference, UConn went back home to the Big East in 2020 and immediately proceeded to pick up where they left off in 2013, becoming a powerhouse in basketball amongst other sports while declaring independence in football. 

Now we can fully observe the real chaos. Since the CFP was created in 2014, Oklahoma has been carrying the Big XII’s CFP hopes while conference rival Texas has been average. There have been exceptions such as 2014 TCU, 2019 Baylor and 2020 Iowa State, but Oklahoma has been the team everyone talks about while Texas sits on the sidelines. 

The Red River Rivalry participants were getting tired of going up against and dominating their conference members. Rumors started to fly that they were going to switch conferences. Those rumors ended up being true as the SEC welcomed the two powerhouses into their ranks on August 25. 

Now, Texas and Oklahoma are going to join former Big XII schools such as Missouri and Texas A&M in a real football conference while getting an upgrade in the competition they played such as Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Florida. 

Realizing that they were losing two charter members of the “12 team” era, the Big XII had to respond because they did not want to go back to being the Big 8. They also must have realized their CFP hopes are 0 without Oklahoma carrying the freight because the schools they picked to replace them are strong football teams. 

From the American, the Big XII invited UCF, Cincinnati and Houston, three schools who were or are ranked in the AP polls this season. The three schools could not match up to the history that Oklahoma and Texas had, but they were slightly similar on several grounds. UCF had an undefeated season in 2017 just like Texas (2005) and Oklahoma (2000) had. Cincinnati has a great head coach in Luke Fickell, who compares to Lincoln Riley and Bob Stoops. Houston is from Texas, enough said. 

In addition, the Big XII added BYU from the independents/WAC (everything but football). BYU was just coming off a one-loss season led by second overall pick Zach Wilson and was going to represent the Rocky Mountain area for the Big XII. 

So, how was the AAC going to respond to losing such valuable members of their conference? For years, the AAC has wanted to be considered a member of the “Power Six” like the Big East once had. That wasn’t going to happen if SMU and Tulsa were the best teams football-wise. 

For their replacements, conference commissioner Mike Aresco invited UAB, UTSA, Charlotte, North Texas, FAU and Rice. Most of these schools I just mentioned are from Conference-USA. I am not panicking about the C-USA giving up so many teams like this because they provided the Big East with Louisville, Marquette, DePaul, USF and others back in 2005. 

These are interesting replacements for the American. Three of the teams are in Texas while the rest set up a stake in the Southeast. UTSA has the best football resume out of all six schools, and they are currently ranked and undefeated. Perhaps with this move, the American can fulfill their dream of being a power conference that produces successful teams and successful players, but only time and results will tell. 

To wrap up what we do know in terms of realignment anarchy, days after the American picked their six replacements, Southern Mississippi said goodbye to the C-USA when they were invited to join the Sun Belt conference, thus leaving the conference with only seven schools.  

Even worse for the conference, Old Dominion and Marshall are jumping the sinking ship as they will join Southern Mississippi in the Sun Belt Conference in addition to FCS powerhouse James Madison. Especially with Coastal Carolina running the town, the Sun Belt Conference could be scorching hot football-wise in a few years.  

But it does not stop there; like the timelines you see with cinematic universes at comic-cons, the timeline for realignment just keeps growing. Will the new teams make the American a possible elite conference, or will it cause the American’s former members to look upon the conference with shame? Will the Big XII get more than one team in the CFP? Will the SEC take all four CFP spots for themselves? How would things have been different if UConn made the PAT? Only time will tell. 

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