One could easily make the case that UConn is the top college sports program in America that does not hold a seat in a major college conference. Will the Huskies finally get invited to a power conference, or will they once again be left behind by the NCAA's fat cats?
We'll find out the answer to that in October when Big 12 presidents meet to decide the future of the conference, specifically expansion, but for now let's take a look at UConn's chances and take a look at some other favorites.
Makes the most sense
UConn, South Florida
The idea of a major midwest or southern conference grabbing the "Northeast audience" is mostly a load of bull feces. New York/New Jersey is not exactly buzzing with anticipation for Rutgers' upcoming football season in the Big 10, Boston College - of the ACC - has never been more irrelevant in Boston, and schools like Syracuse and Pitt still seem out of place in the ACC despite having been there for three years now. All that said, UConn still has by far the best sports tradition of the seven schools mentioned by Mark Blaudschun at TMGcollegesports.com.
UConn has shown in the past the ability to sell out its football stadium - particularly when A. The team is good; and B. The visiting program is good. Head football coach Bob Diaco has the program headed in a winning direction as it jumped from 2-10 in 2014 to 6-6 in 2015, and obviously if the Huskies were to enter the Big 12, there would be a prominent program in East Hartford every other week.
Now, men's basketball is nowhere close to the money-maker that football is in college sports (the main reason why UConn has been left behind in realignment over these past 12 years), but the Big 12 bosses have to - at this point - think about different ways to obtain revenue. The Big 12 is not landing another football powerhouse anytime soon because all the big-time programs are all settled into respective conferences. So, why not take the school that could get them prominent, primetime nationally televised games in the second biggest college sport? UConn - Kansas, UConn - Kansas State, UConn - Oklahoma, and UConn - Texas would do extremely strong TV numbers in men's hoops.
As for South Florida - the reason why it also makes sense in the Big 12 is that the conference absolutely needs to dip its toes into football-crazed Florida. Florida State and Miami carry the ACC in TV numbers and Florida obviously does great things for the SEC. The Bulls are not at that level, obviously, but having any sort of presence in a state where college football dominates to that extent would help any conference.
Close but no cigar
BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida
BYU has the best shot here because of its football prowess and it has been mentioned that they could be included as a "football-only member." But the guess here is that the BIg 12 will want it to be an all-or-nothing scenario for the schools that join.
As for the rest - Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis and Central Florida just don't have the cache of a UConn. While the Huskies' women's basketball program does not generate much in terms of TV revenue, having 2-3 weeks of buzz each March and early April does not hurt in the least. That Dan Shaughnessy tweet/column about how the "UConn women are too dominant for their own good" created a media firestorm. Controversy creates cash in this scenario, and that's an appealing thing for a conference concerned about its bottom line.