Friday, May 5, 2000
by Will Stewart,

UConn to Join Big East Football in 2005

Some big news for the Big East came and went relatively quietly this week. The announcement was made on Tuesday that Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland signed legislation to build the UConn Huskies a 40,000-seat football stadium. In a nutshell, this means that the much-talked-about move of the Huskies into the Big East Football Conference in 2005 has now been locked up and will happen.

UConn has been Division 1-AA but was granted an "attendance waiver" by the NCAA and is going to make the move to 1-A this coming fall. One of the requirements for Division 1-A status is a 35,000 seat stadium, and since UConn currently plays in a 16,000 seat stadium, the attendance waiver was necessary. The waiver was granted on the condition that UConn build a stadium of sufficient size, and to be honest, it has been a touch-and-go battle for the Huskies. The linked article above details the struggles of UConn to get a stadium approved and built.

Thus ends a long saga for the Huskies, and a piece of the Big East's future has now crystallized and taken shape. With the entry of the Virginia Tech Hokies into the Big East for all sports beginning this July, and with UConn's entry into the football conference in 2005, the membership of the conference is much more stable than it was just a few months ago.

On the football side, out of the 9 teams that will be in the conference in 2005, only one, Temple, will not be an all-sports member. On the basketball side, the number of teams who are in the football conference will go from the current 6 out of 13 to 8 out of 14 (by adding Tech to all sports and adding UConn to football).

The implication is clear. Currently, a minority (6 of 13) of the basketball schools are also in the football conference. In July, half of the basketball schools (7 of 14) will be in the football conference, and in 2005, a majority (8 of 14) of the basketball schools will be in the football conference. The conference will finally be a football-driven conference.

That's two problems down: Tech and UConn. Two problems remain: Temple and Notre Dame. The Owls are football-only, and the Fighting Irish are everything-but-football. Perhaps this isn't a problem at all, because between the two of them, they comprise a single all-sports school. If we squint really hard, maybe we can pretend that Temple's football team is Notre Dame (that's getting to be less and less of a stretch), or that Notre Dame's basketball team is Temple (that's getting to be less and less of a stretch, too).

Whether or not the Big East plans to "do anything" about Temple and Notre Dame is up for debate, but my guess is that nothing is imminent, and by that, I mean nothing will happen in the next five years. You can't just kick Temple out, as much as I personally would love to, and you can't add them to an already bloated all-sports conference that nearly had to have its collective fingernails pulled out just to add the well-deserving Hokies. And for the record, the Big East settled for pulling out Tech's fingernails instead, and not their own, when it finally came time to add VT. Can you say "no revenue sharing and steep entry fees"? I thought you could.

In a perfect world, Temple football gets kicked out, and Notre Dame football gets added. Most Big East fans would love to see that happen. But kicking Temple out is lawsuit city, or at the very least settlement city, and would no doubt cost the conference millions of dollars just to get the Owls to go quietly. And the Owls don't appear to be ready to drop to 1-AA, as has been rumored at times, so that situation is a stalemate. The Owls will continue to flounder and will continue to munch greedily at the Big East trough.

As for Notre Dame, the Irish have absolutely no reason to join Big East football that I can see, no monetary reason anyway, and that's always the true driver. The Irish enjoy all of the benefits of Big East membership (i.e., bowl tie-ins) without any of the hassles, and they've got their own TV network without having to share the money. Why change?

This news will have an impact on Tech's future football schedules. A 2001 home date with the Huskies will stay put (and will be a 1-A game), and the TBD's for home dates in 2005, etc., will be filled with UConn games. Currently, Tech plays Miami, Boston College, and Syracuse at home in odd years, and now, with the addition of UConn, that will round out Tech's home Big East football schedule to four games every year, not the current setup of three home games in odd years alternated with four home games in even years.

The Stadium Will be Fine

There has been quite a bit of debate on the message board about whether Tech's South end zone expansion will be dog-bone ugly or another HOK architectural marvel.

In case you've been in Charlottesville for the last couple of weeks, there has been quite a bit of news about Tech's stadium expansion. First of all, the entire schedule has been moved up by one year, which means that the South end zone expansion is slated for completion by the start of the 2001 season, not 2002, and the West side additions have been targeted for 2002, not 2003.

All that and more is summarized on HokieCentral's Lane Stadium Expansion Page, which includes a link to a Dave Fairbank (Daily Press) article that contains lots of good info.

HOK is one of two architecture firms tabbed for the Lane Stadium expansion job, and they have a long resume of collegiate stadium renovations and expansions. To see examples of their work, take a look at the HOK web site, which is linked in the border of the stadium expansion page.

But back to the appearance question. A number of message board posters are convinced that a double-decked end zone, when combined with Tech's short West stands and tall East stands, absolutely positively cannot look good. Beautiful? Maybe not. Ugly? Definitely not. It can be done and done well. For evidence, just visit the Lane Stadium Expansion Page and take a look at a computer mock-up done by an HC message board poster. It looks pretty sharp.

Will HOK's design look like that? Probably not, but it could be close. In any event, I'm in the camp that says, calm down and wait until the models and architectural drawings come out before you have an attack.


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