The National Championship Title won by UConn is a validation of its decision to embrace basketball over football and join the Big East conference. When Coach Dan Hurley arrived in 2018, the Huskies were stuck in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) with no geographic attachment, no historic rivals and what was deemed to be an unsuccessful recruiting process. UConn’s administration eventually decided to leave the AAC and join the Big East in order for their basketball program to become relevant again.
This new move immediately paid off in terms of recruitment as players such as Andre Jackson Jr., Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins chose UConn as their college as they were exposed to the natural rivalries and historical background of the Big East. The administrative change was confirmed to be a success as the team swept their opponents in the NCAA tournament by an average of 20 points and won the National Championship on the final day of the tournament.
The Big East conference is a mix of former Big East and Catholic Seven members including well-known teams such as Georgetown, Villanova, Providence and Seton Hall. The conference is known to prioritize basketball, drawing top recruits into its ranks as schools such as UConn will offer unparalleled exposure.
David Benedict, UConn’s athletics director, was instrumental in the decision to leave the AAC and join the Big East. His decisions were informed by the competition from the Big East’s basketball-centric culture as well as the fact that the northeastern United States was more likely to be impressed by this rivalry rather than the AAC.
Another person mentioned in the article is Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun. Auriemma is the women’s basketball head coach at UConn who has led the Huskies to 11 National Women’s Basketball Titles while Calhoun, the former men’s basketball head coach, is the all-time winningest coach at UConn and led them to three National Titles. Their success in the past 25 years have been the driving force behind the successful UConn program and established them as a huge staple in the sport of basketball.
Although conference realignment often leads to a poorer competitive environment, UConn bucked the trend by going back to the Big East and put their basketball program first. This decision has certainly paid off and served as inspiration to those in a similar situation.