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Big East officially announces UConn's return

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asked Aug 2 by christian30 (240 points)
The Big East officially announced on Thursday the return of University of Connecticut athletics to the conference that was its home from 1979 to 2013.

The league said the year of entry will be determined at a later date. UConn will participate in 20 of the league's 22 sports.

It was the final step in a week filled with procedural advancements, as the Big East presidents approved UConn's invitation on Monday and the UConn board of trustees voted to join the Big East at a board meeting on Wednesday.

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"On the 40th anniversary of our founding in 1979, we're very excited to welcome back the University of Connecticut, a Big East charter member," said Big East commissioner Val Ackerman. "As a group of schools rooted in basketball preeminence, we can think of no better partner than UConn to join us in perpetuating the rivalries, traditions and successes that have made the Big East unlike any other conference in college basketball. We know that our competitions and the experiences of our student-athletes, coaches and supporters across all of our sports will be greatly enriched by UConn's return."

UConn was an original member of the Big East in 1979, but it left in 2013 when the league's seven basketball-focused private schools broke away to form the new Big East. The Huskies landed in the American Athletic Conference, along with former Big East members Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida. The new Big East kept DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova, while also adding Butler, Creighton and Xavier.

UConn now returns to the place where it became a national brand in both men's and women's basketball. The men's basketball team won four national championships between 1999 and 2014, but it hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2016. It lost all of its regional rivalries within the conference and saw its attendance numbers dramatically drop.

Meanwhile, the women's basketball team established itself as the best program in the country under Geno Auriemma, who took over in 1985. The Huskies have not lost in 102 regular-season conference games and 18 conference tournament games during their six years in the American.

"The Big East is an incredibly special and enduring part of our heritage," UConn president Susan Herbst said. "We were a founding member 40 years ago. Our programs grew and thrived in this conference over decades. The intensity of the competition, the passion of our rivalries, and all of our most triumphant wins and toughest losses helped to make us who we are. Coming back here means UConn is coming home. We are excited about the future."

The question remains about what happens with UConn's football program. The Big East doesn't have FBS football, with programs such as Villanova and Georgetown playing at the FCS level. The program could go independent following its final season in the American or join another conference.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said Thursday that the conference won't let UConn be a football-only member.

Following a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010, the Huskies have failed to finish .500 or better in every season. They bottomed out with a 1-11 campaign in 2018.

The American could decide to stay at 11 schools once UConn leaves, or replace the Huskies. A possibility would be to add Army or Air Force as a football-only school, in the same vein as Navy, and then add another program for basketball.

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