Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

UConn appears headed back to Big East, but what does it mean for USF?

Various reports indicate Connecticut will return to its former hoops-driven league
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
USF defensive end Kirk Livingstone (94) tackles Connecticut quarterback David Pindell (5) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, October 20, 2018.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times USF defensive end Kirk Livingstone (94) tackles Connecticut quarterback David Pindell (5) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, October 20, 2018.
Published Jun. 22
Updated Jun. 23

The college athletics landscape received a jolt ― more startling than seismic ― on Saturday when widespread reports surfaced that Connecticut plans to bolt the American Athletic Conference and return to the Big East in 2020.

Naturally, the news spawned a litany of questions. The most glaring: Whom ― if anyone ― does the AAC seek to replace the Huskies? And what happens to UConn football if the school jumps to a conference (Big East) that doesn’t sanction that sport?

MORE USF: USF adds 5 home football dates vs. Bethune-Cookman, FAMU

More on those later. Locally, some Bulls fans may be asking how it affects USF, which is a far simpler one to answer.

Very little.

There’s no effect on football, aside from the obvious one-game hole the Bulls ― and every other AAC team ― would have on their schedule.

Frankly, Huskies football had regressed into an albatross of sorts for the AAC, clearly the nation’s sixth-best conference in a Power Five world. In fact, the loss of UConn, which has averaged exactly three victories over the past six seasons, might be deemed by some as addition by subtraction; any school brought in to replace the Huskies almost certainly would be an upgrade.

The loss of UConn men’s hoops smarts a bit more because of the strength of the Huskies brand, though UConn hasn’t been a national factor in recent years. In baseball, the highly underrated AAC would be losing one of its best programs, though that sport doesn’t move the needle in terms of revenue.

But women’s basketball is different. The departure of that sport’s premier brand from the AAC would represent a boost and bruise for USF.

On the down side, the stature of the AAC ― barely one of the nation’s top 10 RPI conferences even with UConn ― would tumble. On the positive side, USF would be in position to contend for conference titles annually.

For four consecutive seasons (2015-18), the Bulls women lost to UConn in the title game of the AAC tournament. Get the picture?

And even in years when USF doesn’t win an AAC tourney devoid of UConn, it still could earn an at-large NCAA Tournament berth by, say, reaching 20 wins and performing well in its annually daunting non-conference slate.

As for the other pressing questions regarding this bombshell from the Northeast, the answers will come with time.

It’s hardly far-fetched to suggest the AAC could add another school only for football (similar to its current deal with Navy), then invite another strong basketball program, such as it did recently with Wichita State.

It also could choose to add nobody, instead going with only 11 football-playing teams and dropping divisional play. Keeping UConn as a football-only partner seems highly unlikely, considering the Huskies’ dreadful recent history.

MORE USF: Former Blake, USF standout Mike McFarland fights back after frightening accident

Financially, UConn’s exit should have no bearing on the new media rights deal the AAC recently reached with ESPN. The AAC’s exit fee is $10 million, and schools must give 27 months’ notice, meaning UConn may have some negotiating to do in that area.

It all makes for a significant ripple effect.

Just not one that will make huge waves in the bay area.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The first time they met, Jeff Scott was a 14-year-old following his father's footsteps and Michael Kelly was fresh out of college. A quarter-century later, Kelly has entrusted Scott to take the USF football program to a new level. "I knew instinctively this day would come for him, but I never knew it would align for the two of us to be together,'' Kelly said. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    John Romano | South Florida is a program with little history and loads of potential, and Scott is a hotshot young coach looking to make a name for himself.
  2. New FAU coach Willie Taggart faces one of his old teams, USF, on Sept. 26, 2020 in Boca Raton. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    He moves to his fourth program in the past 36 months. Adding intrigue to the hire, FAU hosts USF in 2020.
  3. (From left) USF Bulls mascot 'Rocky the Bull", new USF football coach Jeff Scott, his wife Sara and their 4-year-old daughter Savannah pose for photos after his announcement at the Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center on Wednesday [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The fifth football coach in USF history seems to hit all the right notes to a standing-room-only crowd
  4. LSU players celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. [JOHN BAZEMORE  |  AP]
    “Members of Congress care about college sports. They recognize how important it is to American society."
  5. Jeff Scott is introduced as the new USF football coach at the Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center in Tampa on Wednesday, [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Signs and sound bites indicate the Clemson co-offensive coordinator was the Bulls’ top choice all along
  6. Jeff Scott is introduced as the new USF Bulls head football coach at the University of South Florida Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    In fact, here’s how he did it as a Clemson walk-on in 2001
  7. In this Jan. 5 file photo, Clemson Tigers co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott speaks with media during media day at the SAP Center prior to the College Football Playoff national championship game  vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. [ADAM LACY  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    Scott will be the sixth assistant to keep working for a College Football Playoff team while serving as an incoming head coach elsewhere.
  8. New USF football coach Jeff Scott receives a de facto $500,000 signing bonus on Jan. 17, 2020. [ JACOB KUPFERMAN  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    The former Clemson co-offensive coordinator must pay USF $2.5 million if he leaves on his own before Dec. 31 2020.
  9. New USF coach Jeff Scott has spent the last 12 seasons on the staff at Clemson, his alma mater. [ADAM LACY  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    The fifth Bulls coach in program history will appear at the Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center.
  10. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott talks with receivers Mike Williams (7) and Artavis Scott (3) during a 2016 game at FSU. Scott was named USF's coach Monday. [DAVID GROOMS/CAL SPORT MEDIA  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    Though not the bay area’s primary recruiter for Clemson, Scott’s fingerprints are all over the region.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement