The University of Connecticut's Board of Trustees unanimously voted Wednesday to bring its non-football sports programs back into the Big East Conference and leave the American Athletic Conference. The vote was one of the final steps in making the move official. A formal announcement will be made by conference officials Thursday in New York City.
“While we all appreciate the AAC ... the board must make a decision that is best for the athletic program,” said board chairman Tom Ritter. “At this time, supporting and accepting the Big East invitation is a better overall fit, in my opinion, and best for our student athletes.”
ESPN reported earlier this week that the Big East made an invitation offer to the university, which became a founding member of the AAC in 2013 after the original Big East reorganized and formed a conference with just non-football athletics.
The conference now includes schools like Providence College, Georgetown University, Marquette University, Seton Hall, Villanova University, and others.
Supporters said the move will put successful programs like UConn men's and women's basketball into a more competitive conference. Analysts say it could improve recruiting, and fans have expressed their excitement at the Huskies playing more traditional rival teams.
To leave the American Athletic Conference, UConn may have to pay a fee of up to $10 million dollars. As a public university, the school does receive state funding from taxpayer dollars, a portion of which goes toward athletics.
Attorney General William Tong said his office is helping the university with the transfer and those prior contract agreements.
“We’re continuing to look at the language of those contracts. We want to do the right thing by everybody and that’s what we’re focused on doing,” Tong said.
The attorney general was at the board meeting Wednesday to sign the university’s new contract with the Big East alongside outgoing President Susan Herbst.
Basketball coaches Geno Auriemma and Dan Hurley also attended the board meeting and vote, but did not comment.
Not everyone is happy about the Huskies joining the Big East -- the move means that its football program may be without a home. Sports analysts say it's unlikely that the American Athletic Conference will allow just the football program to remain.
Tom McDougall, a 2015 UConn graduate, said the school’s notable sports teams and culture was a big reason why he chose to attend the university as an out-of-state resident. He was and is a big fan of its football program, which is why McDougall, who now lives in West Hartford, said this will likely hurt that team.
But Ritter said the university is still committed to supporting football. “We will have options for football and have time to decide on a pathway for a successful and exciting football program,” he said.
This story is developing.