UConn is quickly becoming the redheaded stepchild of the other powerhouse conferences. They've sat by helplessly as Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia, Rutgers and Louisville all left for perceived greener pastures. The last "thanks but no thanks" came courtesy of the ACC, which was looking to quickly replace Maryland, now headed to the Big Ten.
The Huskies were in the running but ultimately Louisville got the nod. There's a chance the ACC could come calling at a later date but for now, UConn and the Big East are stuck in a marriage of convenience.
The Hartford Courant's Dom Amore spoke to ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell about the implications, the impact, and what, if anything, UConn can do while it waits by the phone.
“If you look at opponents, if UConn is not great, not killing people, then going to a game is not exciting,” Rovell told Amore Friday. “If UConn is great, you don’t know how great they are, because you’re not playing the best. If third in the Big East meant a sixth seed in the tournament, what will third in the ‘new’ Big East get you? Who the hell knows? The games themselves mean less, that’s frustrating.”
The quickest, simplest way to fix this? Schedule tougher opponents.
“You can minimize the damage by and try to have confidence in your brand,” Rovell continued. “You tell your fans and recruits, ‘what happened is beyond our control. But what we can control is scheduling.’ What UConn can do is schedule the most robust non-conference schedule anyone has ever seen. The message would be, ‘we have to be in a position to start earlier, but if we take care of business in our weaker conference we can be the same No.1 we were before.’”
The problem, of course, is that this plan could backfire. A team that wins 15 games but has the toughest schedule in the country isn't any better off (and probably worse off) than a team with a much easier schedule that wins 22-25 games. But there's no room for complacency in today's ever-changing conference landscape.
“You can fall off map and it can happen very quickly,” Rovell said, “but a collegiate brand naturally lasts longer, has a greater, growing fan base, because it is not so easy for fans to neglect the name on the front of the jersey. Pro sports teams can fall harder because they don’t have the ability to recruit, there is greater ability for fan attrition. College fans are used to players staying for only two or three years, you’re used to the cycle.
"People do get sicker of losing quicker today, the amount of times horrible seasons and bad losses are memorialized on twitter does that, bad moments are memorialized over and over everywhere you look. … But it would take a while for UConn fans to say ‘I don’t care.’”
But it can happen. Just look at the football team.