It’s not news that this is the last season UConn will be playing in the American Athletic Conference. This means a lot of things, but it has made scheduling a quagmire for the Huskies going forward. Without eight built-in games as soon as 2020, UConn needs to act fast to fill in their schedule.
That’s going to be a mess, there’s no doubt about it.
However, for 2021 and forward from there, the Huskies have some interesting options.
The first thing that UConn will look to do, is play teams as local to the northeast as possible. This will see an uptick in fan interest, and more people will travel to road games. Importantly, it would also cut down on travel costs. For an athletics program running a $40 million deficit, every penny matters.
UConn has already begun to schedule like this, with a series between themselves and Boston College. That will begin in 2022.
Some other teams which would make sense for UConn to schedule are Army, another Independent who needs to fill a full schedule. Syracuse and Pitt are old Big East rivals worth reigniting match-ups with. After all, that’s why UConn basketball is moving back to the Big East, to get back to its roots. Teams like Rutgers and Temple also make sense. Recruiting the New Jersey and Philadelphia areas are incredibly important for schools in the northeast.
These options are good, if the others have room on their schedules, and agree to the game. There’s a better, more unique, option.
Starting in 2021, UConn should play two games a season against UMass.
On the surface, it sounds strange, but it wouldn’t be unique. New Mexico State and Liberty are playing two games a season this year, and did so last season as well.
The reason? It’s hard for Independents to schedule twelve games. So, playing twice against the same team makes it much easier to fill in their schedule. As of now, UMass and UConn already are in the midst of a series which goes to 2021. It almost certainly will be extended at some point. In 2021 UMass still has two open spots, so that’s when they should start playing each other twice a season, once at each team’s home stadium.
The two schools are in a similar situation. Both are now staring independence for the foreseeable future in the face. They need to do something to make that reality more bearable.
Both teams have frankly been terrible lately. There’s no sugarcoating it. UMass has a new coach. UConn has an old coach, who should be gone soon.
They both struggle to fill their stadiums. They both struggle with their budgets. They both need to travel a lot to go to their typical road games. They’re both looking for winnable games in the future.
Located an hour drive from one another, the two programs have been rivals since the days of the Yankee Conference. Now, they’ve been working to rekindle this rivalry, which was lost due to UConn going FBS well before UMass got the call up.
If the two programs can renew the hatred, more people will watch on TV and fill their stadiums. That’s more visibility for the programs. More money. Better recruits.
The travel isn’t bad, they’ll only need to take buses to one another’s campus. They don’t even need to stay over the night. That’s a ton cheaper than flying to another state and paying for hotel rooms. When you’re $40 million over budget, you need to cut from the budget where you can.
This is better than these teams playing Boston College, which they should still do to establish another regional rival, because it’s a winnable game for each of them. In 2018, UMass came from behind to beat UConn, 22-17. These programs need wins to improve confidence and work towards bowl eligibility.
It might be odd to play a team twice in one year, especially during the regular season, but it would fit a distinct need for each of these two struggling Independent programs. They need more games scheduled. They need winnable games. They need a rivalry. They need people to pay attention and care. Even if those people are limited to New Englanders for the time being.
Bring back the Yankee Conference, and bring it back to excess.