NEW YORK (WFSB) - The University of Connecticut was officially welcomed back into the Big East Conference on Thursday.

The announcement was made by conference officials in New York City around noon.

It's big news for fans hoping to rekindle some old rivalries.

UConn's athletics programs, excluding football, will begin play in the Big East at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.

They'll be able to face off against teams like Georgetown, Villanova and Xavier.

UConn's Board of Trustees officially voted to accept the Big East's invitation during a meeting on Wednesday.

"The opportunity to add a member who is a national brand that's in our geographic footprint, who has an outstanding fan base with proven support of our biggest annual event," said Val Ackerman, Big East Commissioner. 

The Huskies were a charter member of the old Big East Conference, which ended when a group of Catholic schools broke away to form the new one. UConn was left behind in the hold conference, which became the American Athletic Conference.

Though the name is now familiar, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma warns that it's not the same conference it was.

UConn became a national power in basketball as a Big East school.

Three men's titles were won under coach Jim Calhoun and eight women's titles came under Auriemma.

The move will cost UConn a lot of money in the beginning due to exit fees from the AAC and millions of dollars in entry fees. 

Channel 3 sat down with an expert to see if this is a good deal for UConn financially. 

"I'm not a big fan of it. I think it's similar to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," said Gil Fried, University of New Haven. 

Gil Fried, Chair of the University of New Haven's Sport's Management Department, said the decision does nothing to fix some of UConn's problems. 

He said Connecticut has always been a tough sports market, and that includes UConn. 

Josh Shuart, on the other hand, disagrees. The Chair of Marketing and Sport Management at Sacred Heart says this is a great business move because fans love the Big East days. 

"It's sort of been a, I don't want to say passionless, but it's been a struggle conjuring up those rivalries since that move," Shuart said. 

One big disagreement between the two is what this means for UConn football. 

The Big East doesn't sanction football and the agreement bars UConn from talking to any of the top give football conferences prior to entering the Big East. 

Once it joins, UConn would need to pay $30 million if the school wants to leave the Big East within the first 6 years. That fee drops to $15 million after year 6, and then $10 million after year 10. 

That's more than any other Big East school would need to pay. 

"Without having a major conference for football, which is the main money driver, UConn is still going to be facing financial trouble," Fried said. 

Of the 225 school schools that compete in Division 1 athletics, only 14 broke even or turned a profit. Another 82 needed subsidies of up to $10 million, including schools like Michigan and Auburn, with big time football programs. 

The other 129 schools needed subsidies of more than $10 million, led by UConn's $41 million. 

Shuart says this means UConn will shift focus from football back to what it does best, basketball. 

"I hope it's not the be all end all priority, and if it is this isn't going to get any easier for them," Shuart said. 

UConn officials said that they remain committed to keeping Football in the NCAA's top division. Options include remaining in the AAC or joing another conference for football only, or becoming independent. 

AAC Commissioner, Mike Aresco, released a statement on Thursday saying, "The University of Connecticut has announced its withdrawal from the American Athletic Conference. We wish UConn well. We will next address the exit procedure mandated by our conference bylaws. Our conference will continue to move forward in pursuit of its national goals in football, men's and women's basketball, and Olympic sports." 

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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(2) comments

Jules Winnfield

How much did this cost taxpayers? UCONN is notorious for its outlandish spending then holding their hats out for state and federal funding. Seems very irresponsible considering how fat CT is in debt, and how bad the student loan situation is. Maybe it's time to eliminate sports programs from colleges and make education far more affordable. Sickens me to know that I'm paying for this BS in one way or another.

Feddup

With you Jules. Look at UCONN football. We pay a head coach, asst each, trainers, tutors, etc, etc. They also earn paid time off, medical, automatic pay raises, retirement, and bunches more. The facilities cost millions, sports equip costs big time. Travel, accommodations, meals etc. For what? Then consider how many team sports UCONN supports, like a dozen or so. Oh yeah, for each sport [almost all], you have a mens AND women team, coaches trainers, travel, fees, and so9 on. A chess team would cost a lot less than say our football, or baseball teams, and probably draw the same number of fans. Almost forgot, there is a movement to pay these student athletes too. League exit/entrance fees in the millions? I will not attend a college sporting event due to cost, travel logistics, and time, but I am forced to pay for these programs through my tax dollars. Make University education again.

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