The AAC could be facing the prospect of more television contract negotiations if UConn’s move to the Big East goes through.
According to a report from the Sports Business Journal, ESPN has the right to renegotiate the contract that it just signed with the conference if the Huskies leave.
The 12-year, $1 billion media rights deal that was signed in March carries a composition clause that gives ESPN the right to renegotiate its terms if any of the schools leave the conference. The network inserted the clause in case the AAC’s football powerhouse — UCF — left for a bigger conference. Memphis, Cincinnati, Houston and USF also were seen as likely AAC schools to be poached by bigger conferences if realignment took hold again. ESPN inserted the clause as an assurance that it would not be left paying $1 billion to a conference that had lost its highest-rated teams.
The AAC is set to be one of the bigger draws for the network’s ESPN+ subscription service. Numerous AAC events — including football games — are going to be on the platform.
UConn football is, of course, not that much of a draw. And the men’s basketball team has slumped lately. But the women’s basketball team is the best program in the nation. Combine their success and popularity with the fact that UConn’s men’s team still has a fanbase and football is the biggest revenue-driver of any college sport and you could see why ESPN would at least consider the idea of renegotiating the contract.
It’s a contract that UConn wasn’t happy with when it was signed in March. The Huskies’ women’s basketball team does really good ratings locally and the school wasn’t a fan of moving many of the team’s games to a subscription streaming service.
UConn athletic director David Benedict had this to say on the AAC/ESPN deal announced today... pic.twitter.com/oAKBPxUtm9— Mike Anthony (@ManthonyCourant) March 27, 2019
A move would happen in 2020
UConn’s “inevitable” move to the Big East would happen pretty quickly. And it would mean that UConn football would be scrambling to put together a schedule. UConn football would likely go independent to stay at the FBS level and that means eight games to find to fill a 12-game schedule.
UConn AD David Benedict’s biggest problem will be filling that 2020 schedule when the Huskies suddenly have eight open dates. [Scheduling guru Dave] Brown said there are currently no FBS teams with open dates in that season. What UConn will need to do, he explained, is convince schools that are playing each other to instead play the Huskies.
If the AAC doesn’t move to find a willing football replacement for UConn, the conference would have 11 football teams. That number won’t prevent the conference from still hosting a championship game thanks to legislation passed ahead of the 2017 season that doesn’t require a conference to have a minimum of 12 teams to have a title game.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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