STORRS, Conn. (AP) — UConn’s new athletic director says he’s waiting to hear from the Big 12 about its interest level in the school before reaching out with an official pitch to join the conference.
The Big 12’s school presidents on Tuesday moved closer to expansion, directing Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to begin evaluating schools interested in joining.
UConn’s David Benedict, in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Friday, acknowledged the Huskies are interested in being evaluated.
"At this point in time the Power Five conferences certainly are looked to as the most competitive conferences," he said. "They derive the most money from their multi-media agreements, their television agreements. And therefore, certainly we aspire to be in those conferences and compete at that level."
UConn currently competes in most sports in the American Athletic Conference.
Benedict was hired in March to succeed Warde Manuel after he left for Michigan. Benedict said of all possible candidates, UConn is the most similar to the Power Five schools, with $71 million athletic budget.
He noted it was one of three division one schools this past year to send its football, baseball and men’s and women’s basketball teams to the postseason. And since 1995, UConn has won 11 women’s national basketball championships, four men’s basketball titles, two in field hockey and one in men’s soccer. The school’s football program also has been to six bowl games.
But Benedict said he has no plans to pick up the phone and call Bowlsby or head to Texas with a PowerPoint presentation.
He said it’s his understanding that the Big 12 will reach out to those it knows have an interest.
"I don’t think circumventing that process is the way to go," he said. "But I don’t think there is a question as to whether or not the Big 12 is aware that we would have an interest if they are interested in us."
Benedict said if the school does join the Big 12, he believes it would eventually need to expand its 40,000-seat football stadium in East Hartford. But he said they can’t do that until Husky fans consistently sell out the building.
He said the school is currently concentrating its efforts on raising private donations to upgrade its baseball, softball, soccer and hockey facilities. There is still no timetable for construction, but Benedict said the school has about $14 million committed to the project, with a goal of raising another $11 million.
"That’s a priority for us, because it also sends out the message that we are going to invest in facilities that are up to (Power Five) standard," he said
Benedict said an intact American Conference is still a viable alternative should the Huskies be passed over by the Power Five. But he said the idea that UConn would consider rejoining the Big East for sports other than football is not currently on the table.
"Everybody is jockeying for position," he said. "Part of my role and responsibility is making sure we’re looking at all options, keeping all options open to make sure we put ourselves as a university and an athletics program in the best possible position to compete."