AAC blog post

UConn is leaving the AAC to return to the Big East. That move could cause ripple effects that impact North Texas.

UConn, one of the traditional powers in college basketball, is set to leave the American Athletic Conference to return to the Big East.

DigitalSportsDesk, an East Coast sports website, reported the news early this morning. A host of national outlets have since jumped on the story.

The move makes sense for a lot of reasons. UConn is a basketball-first school and the Big East is a basketball conference with Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova, among others.

The obvious question for North Texas fans is what does the AAC do moving forward and does the school have a shot at jumping into the league.

The AAC has a number of options it could look at, including adding another member in all sports. That would be the dream scenario for UNT and, if we are being honest, every other member of Conference USA.

UNT has benefited greatly from joining C-USA in 2013. It's been a great home for the Mean Green, but there is no denying what the AAC has to offer.

The AAC has a $1 billion, 12-year television deal that provides each school just under $7 million per year. C-USA's television deal collapsed a few years ago. Schools are expected to receive about $450,000 per year now, per league sources.

A lot would have to happen for UNT to even be considered.

First, the AAC would have to decide it wants to add another all-sports member.

UNT would then have to convince the league it is the best choice among all the schools out there who want in.

UNT's biggest selling point has always been its location in a major metro area and having a huge student body. The school has added to what it has to offer in the last several years by upgrading its facilities and improving its performance on the field.

Apogee Stadium is one of the nicest stadiums out there at a school competing at the Group of Five level. UNT's new indoor facility will also be top notch when it is finished in the next few months.

The Mean Green's programs have also improved. UNT has been to a bowl game under Seth Littrell in each of the last three seasons. The school's men's basketball program has hit the 20-win mark in back-to-back campaigns, while its women's basketball team picked up its first postseason wins ever in the Women's Basketball Invitational last season.

The question is if that will be enough to put UNT over the top should the AAC look to add an all-sports member.

Every school in C-USA would would make the case that they add the most value. 

UNT has a lot to sell, but it has just three NCAA tournament appearances in men's basketball ever and has never won a game. It's women's basketball team has made the women's tournament just once.

NCAA tournament shares in men's basketball are a huge source of funding for leagues. Each game a team plays in the NCAA tournament equals on unit or share. Those shares are good for six years.

One share is worth $282,100 in 2020.

The SEC's total NCAA tournament haul was about $32 million last season.

If the AAC looks to add an all-sports member, it's going to want a school that has shown it can bring value in football and men's basketball.

UNT is improving in football but has just three bowl wins in its entire history.

One can also bet the farm on the fact that SMU would be staunchly opposed to UNT joining the league. 

Do UNT's assets exceed its drawbacks and are there schools out there that the AAC would see as better options if it elects to add an all-sports member?

Old Dominion would surely make a run at an AAC bid. It has a successful basketball program, is located in a metropolitan market and is renovating its football stadium. Middle Tennessee is behind a bit when it comes to facilities but is close to Nashville and has been successful in football, men's basketball and women's basketball.

Western Kentucky is a basketball school that would love to have a spot in the AAC. And that's just for starters.

There is a real chance that neither UNT nor any of those other schools have even a hint of a chance.

The AAC already has a football-only member in Navy and a basketball-only member in Wichita State. The league could look to add another football-only member and another basketball-only member.

UNT athletic director Wren Baker addressed the idea of jumping to another conference at the school's coaches' caravan this summer after a booster submitted that question before the event.

Baker's answer was simple. He said UNT will continue to focus on building its program in order to prepare for any opportunity that comes its way in the future.

UConn's decision to leave the AAC for the Big East could open up just such an opportunity.

Has UNT done enough if the AAC decides to add another all-sports member?

The odds seem long, but it will be interesting to see what the AAC elects to do.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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