The University of Connecticut is paying a premium to leave the American Athletic Conference after the upcoming NCAA season is complete.
UConn has announced that many of its NCAA Division I athletic programs will move to the Big East Conference on July 1, 2020.
The school will pay the American a $17 million exit fee.
UConn athletic director David Benedict thanked the AAC on Friday for giving his school’s athletic programs a home for the past six years.
“I would like to thank Mike Aresco and his staff for their professionalism during this process and we look forward to writing a memorable final chapter in 2019-20,” said Benedict in a written statement e-mailed to Connecticut Public Radio.
Mike Aresco, the AAC’s commissioner, said while the split with UConn was amicable and worked out quickly, he said he’s not sure the school’s going the right way in a move he characterized as “basketball-centric”.
“To be a major university in sports nowadays, you really needed to be competitive in football and obviously have a good basketball program as well,” Aresco said. “They went in a different direction.”
The move excludes football, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and rowing -- with football becoming independent of conference affiliation.
“As far as their football program, they’re going to have to figure that one out,” Aresco said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
The Hartford Courant reports that if UConn were willing to wait until October 2022, the school would have owed just $10 million. But, schools that leave within 27 months of giving the American notice must negotiate their fee with the conference.
The school’s board of trustees voted unanimously to leave the American in favor of the new Big East on June 26.
UConn was a charter member of the Big East. It joined in 1979 and the men’s and women’s basketball teams combined to win 25 tournament championships. That’s before the school was left behind in 2013 when other Big East schools broke off to form their own scheduling alliance.