Should UConn Drop Football and Would Others Follow Suit?
College Football has changed a lot in the past decade, more than most of us probably realize. It is no longer a game where almost anyone could win a National Championship. There are maybe a half-dozen teams who will now compete every year for said title, the rest have no chance.
Which is why word leaking out this weekend that the heavily in debt University of Connecticut Athletics Department will move from the American Athletic Conference to their old home in the Big East probably doesn't come as a huge surprise.
The Huskies were a part of the Big East Conference for 30-plus years, ending their run in 2013 when the galactic realignment of College Football was in full swing. For those of you with short memories (most people these days), the Big East WAS College Basketball's craziest and most fun watch from the early 1990's through the realignment period.
However the Big East doesn't play football. It's not a "Football Conference" and for a team like the Huskies, that's a big, big problem if they want to remain in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
UConn has some serious financial issues. The Athletic Department is nearly $40 million in the hole, led by nearly $9 million deficit produced by the Football Program. Had they stayed in the AAC, they'd be privy to the $7+ million per team TV deal, but I suspect that wouldn't solve the problem as the Football Program just plain does not have the ability to compete with their bigger brethren.
Which gets me to the point of my column here. The University will need to consider the idea of eliminating the football program. Yup, I said it, they need to drop football. It's not only the fact there is no obvious place for the football program to go, even if they did, it wouldn't be economically feasible. That's right, even if they landed in a Power 5 Conference (which they wouldn't) it wouldn't matter, there is not a good fit.
The only conferences logistically which fit are the MAC and Conference USA, but neither of them need a "Football Only" member. Yeah, if the AAC were to claim a member of those confernces it would create an opening, but why would C-USA or the MAC take a team with a struggling program for only football when there are multiple options for them to choose from?
Like it or not, College Football is a "Big Business", or at least in the current era of "Power 5" teams it is. There is not a Universe where anyone will be able to compete with any of the following schools at any time:
Add an occasional Auburn, Penn State and maybe a USC if they get their act together and you have the recipe for every College Football Playoff competitor for the next decade. If you go to any other school---you have no chance.
The UConn's and other "Group of 5" schools have zero chance of ever competing on this level. None. They can spend all the money they want, it won't matter. None of these schools have the TV deal that the ACC, Big 10, Big 12 or SEC has where they get $25-$60 million per team for TV money. And it makes all the difference in the world.
There is no viable reason for UConn to be trying to compete in the FBS, yet they insist the Huskies will stay there. The program will continue to hemorrhage money as an independant or in any other situation at that level.
When you have Coaches in the SEC and Big 10 and the Big 12 making more money than other FBS programs make in revenue for a full season, there is a problem. College Football has become a "Have" and a "Have Not" game where either you are one of the 10 or so programs playing for a title or you are playing to break even on your budget. Period.
I hate that the game has come to this, but it has. IT's time for the NCAA to step in and separate these programs. It's time for the "Power 5" to play against each other--all the time and for the "Group of 5" to play for their own title.
If you are a fan of a UConn or in my case--Georgia Southern, there is NO universe where there is a National Title in the conversation. In my example--when I attended Southern, we won 2 National Titles in what is now the FCS. I would love for us to be able to compete for another title. Winning the Camilla Bowl is just not the same thing. Yeah, sure it's a bonus game--bowl win, but it means nothing. We don't have the budget or facilities to compete with the nearby Georgia Bulldogs and never will.
Basketball is a different beast. Basketball on any given day can have an upset. Basketball is by the nature of the game has more variables that could lead for a little Davy to jump up and bite Goliath in the ass no matter the amount of money Goliath brings in.
And that's why UConn moving back to the Big East makes sense from a Basketball perspective. The Huskies aren't far removed from competing for a title and will always be competitive. It's a lot easier to do that in Basketball.
But it is time to consider getting out of the Football game. Getting out doesn't make them a lesser institute of learning or a lesser program, there are plenty of Basketball only schools out there. Many of whom are very competitive at the most elite levels.
Should the Huskies bail out on football, don't be surprised if others follow suit. There are a ton of "Group of 5" programs hemorrhaging money, if one bails out, others will follow. Trust me. It's going to happen, it is just a matter of when.