UConn UCF Basketball

UConn guard Christian Vital, No. 1, drives to the basket during an NCAA basketball game against UCF.

A conference whose long-term viability depends largely on the success of men’s basketball is reportedly bringing back one of its former powers.

Connecticut will rejoin the Big East in all sports — except football — beginning in 2020, according to reports from multiple media outlets. No official announcement has been made, nor has there been word on the fate of the Huskies’ football program.

Regardless, it’s a major shake-up in college athletics, and the impact will be felt here. Creighton has been a Big East member since 2013.

Here’s a look at three ways the realignment may impact CU.

UConn Road Show

From left, UConn's women's soccer coach Margaret Rodriguez, men's hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh, football coach Randy Edsall, men's basketball coach Dan Hurley and women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma speak at the second annual Coaches Road Show.

More money

First and foremost, this is what matters. UConn will increase the value of the Big East’s media rights package — a 12-year deal that expires in 2025.

The Huskies’ rich history suggests, too, that they’ll routinely reach the NCAA tournament — and make deep runs. Each postseason win is financially rewarded for the league.

Let’s be clear that we aren’t talking about the football-less Big East closing the gap between itself and other power conferences. The Big Ten paid out about $50 million last year. Creighton got about $4 million from its conference.

But at this point for CU and its peers, any extra financial boost helps.

The Power Five budgets keep growing — thanks to football’s TV cash. That revenue isn’t reserved just for the gridiron, either. It’s why a basketball program that hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game can spend blue-blood money on an elite coach. Nebraska will pay Fred Hoiberg $3.57 million per year.

Increased marketability

UConn women's basketball

UConn women's basketball players and head coach Geno Auriemma pose with the 2019 NCAA Regional championship trophy.

It’s difficult to quantify, but the UConn brand will resonate in many ways. Only five men’s basketball teams have more national titles. The groundbreaking success of its women’s hoops program transcends sports.

Now the Bluejays and Huskies are conference associates. On the men’s side, the assumption is that the league will move to a 20-game, round-robin schedule — which means Connecticut will be in Omaha every year.

That’s appealing.

Maybe it’s in a conversation with recruits.

Or it’s on the minds of potential patrons who are more eager to buy tickets to watch UConn’s prestigious hoops programs.

Or it could factor into Creighton’s fundraising pitches to donors.

Perhaps it’s something as simple as getting additional highlights on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” or engaging more fans on social media.

Connecticut has a 30,000-student enrollment — making it the largest school in the league. The Big East’s reach, and its potential audience pool, just expanded.

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Better competition

Eight of the 10 Big East teams have reached the NCAA tournament in the past two seasons. Expectations are high for a lot of teams in this league.

But they’re not Connecticut. Which is fine. The Huskies’ pursuit of success will have a trickle-down effect on everyone.

It should be noted that UConn is in the second year of the Dan Hurley regime. But Hurley reached the NCAA tournament in his final two seasons at Rhode Island, so there’s an assumption that he can resurrect the Huskies. He’s welcoming in a top-25 recruiting class this summer.

We’ll see how quickly Connecticut can make its mark in the new Big East.

It’s likely that the school will find success in other sports.

The prestige of the UConn women’s basketball program is beyond compare. Its men’s soccer squad has reached the NCAA tournament in 18 of the past 21 seasons. The baseball team made its sixth regional since 2010 this year, earning a No. 2 seed and an at-large berth.

The challenge will soon get tougher for Creighton. But that’s normally a good thing.

Reporter - Creighton athletics

Jon covers Creighton athletics, the College World Series and more for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @JonNyatawa. Phone: 402-444-6611

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