College basketball’s big weekend news involves correcting a past mistake.
When several schools departed the Big East for the big football money in Power 5 conferences, the league’s seven Catholic schools formed their own league, without football. Given Connecticut’s wish to continue with football, that left he Huskies out of the new Big East equation.
Now it appears the old days are returning. As first reported by the website Digital Sports Desk, Connecticut is expected to accept a formal invitation to re-join the Big East, giving the conference 11 schools, with an official announcement coming Thursday.
So starting in 2020-21, the Big East will be:
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
The Huskies have a rich basketball history, of course. Under Jim Calhoun, they captured the NCAA Tournament in 1999, 2004 and again in 2011 when UConn beat John Calipari and Kentucky in the Final Four. In 2014, its first year in the American Athletic Conference, and with Kevin Ollie as coach, the Huskies beat Kentucky in the NCAA title game for the school’s fourth national championship.
It has been all downhill after that, however. UConn has been to just one NCAA Tournament in the past five years. Ollie was fired after going 16-17 in 2016-17 and 14-18 in 2017-18. New coach Danny Hurley was 16-17 overall and 6-12 in the AAC last season.
The return to the Big East is expected to give the program a shot in the arm. It returns UConn to the old rivalry days of original Big East members Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence. The league is expected to go from an 18-game conference schedule to 20 games, ensuring home-and-home matchups.
The move is also seen as good for UConn’s women’s basketball program, thought its not as if Geno Auriemma needs the help. His teams have been to 12 straight Final Fours and have won 11 NCAA Tournaments.
The future of UConn football is uncertain. The Big East doesn’t sponsor the sport, so the Huskies may try to stay in the AAC. The New Haven Register reported Sunday that the conference may not be agreeable to that scenario. And the Huskies were 1-11 last season under Randy Edsall, the former Maryland coach in his second tour of duty at the school.
Former UConn quarterback Dan Orlovsky, now an analyst for ESPN, tweeted Sunday, “What’s shocking about the UConn development is that just 7 seasons ago they played in Fiesta Bowl vs Power-Oklahoma. I feel bad for Lew Perkins, Randy Edsall, and the players of the past-but terrible for the DONORS who bought into the vision-and the fans!! See what happens?”
Whatever happens with football, UConn’s move back to the Big East is good news for college basketball.