Discover more from Sportscaster Dan's Newsletter
UConn's football dilemma
And remembering JFK
Good morning, all!
At historic Yale Bowl on Saturday, Yale defeated Harvard, 23-18, before more than 51,000 fans. “The Game” lived up to its reputation and the end result created a three-way tie for the Ivy League title with Yale, Harvard and Dartmouth all sharing the spoils.
Forty miles away an announced crowd of 18,000 watched UConn, an FBS program, upend Sacred Heart of Fairfield, an FCS program. It was only the Huskies second win of the season in 10 games, and therein lies the dilemma UConn faces; a major identity crisis.
Yale knows its identity and is comfortable with it. It competes in the Ivy League. Saturday’s game was the last one of the season. There will be no Ivy League playoffs, no bowl games. Meanwhile, Yale’s battle with archrival Harvard was all UConn has hoped for but may never achieve with its program; a title, an archrival and a packed house.
In order to be a thriving FBS program, UConn needs to be part of a conference, be competitive, and draw at least 51,000 per game. Their stadium at Rentschler Field doesn’t even hold 51,000. And after seemingly taking a step forward under coach Jim Mora, who also has coached at major schools such as UCLA and in the NFL, they have slid backward in a colossal way this year.
So frustrated is Mora that he vowed major changes next season.
“We’re gonna turn this program around and we’re gonna do it with portal kids.”
Good luck. A school with no football identity, no conference and a small stadium is going to have to be creative to turn things around. If the PAC-12 cannot survive how can an independent program such as UConn?
We are witnessing the major dissolution of conferences in favor of super conferences. Television and more importantly streaming revenue is at stake. The program that produces the dough is college football not basketball, a sport with which UConn is identified.
The NCAA has been neutered, as these super conferences now call the shots, signing big television and streaming contracts and leaving the other programs to fend for themselves. Soon, in order for college basketball to be big time at a university to succeed, it is going to have to have a big time football program. For UConn, whose men’s basketball team is the defending national champion, that is its biggest fear.
UConn’s athletic program produced a $53 million deficit in fiscal year 2022. Officials blame $13.4 million on a payout to former basketball coach Kevin Ollie, but subtracting that, a $40 million deficit is not chump change. By comparison, Tennessee, in the upper echelon of school athletics, has an athletic operating budget of more than $170 million. Its football program produces annual revenues of $155 million. It has more people waiting at its concession stands, during a game, than UConn has attending a game. The playing field is not level and there is no way UConn can reach that plateau without a massive financial commitment.
Facing reality could also jeopardize UConn’s prestigious men’s and women’s basketball programs, something the super conference schools would love. There is nothing that bugs the Tennessee and Alabama programs more than to see UConn’s dominance in basketball. What better way to change the landscape than to make these universities go big-time football or bust, when it comes to all their athletic programs.
The clock is ticking on UConn and similar schools. As one who attended UConn, it pains me to write this but reality is at hand, when it comes to UConn sports remaining a national player, and it all has to do with football. It may be time to face the music and move on. Yale and Harvard have and they’re getting along just fine. Just ask the 51,000-plus who filled Yale Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
A ratings record?
As you read this the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles will have played their much anticipated MNF game, a rematch of last season’s Super Bowl. I do not know what the over-under is for how many times ESPN/ABC will show Taylor Swift, but it would not surprise me if the game sets a regular season ratings record for MNF.
In case you’re wondering, the most watched MNF prime-time NFL game this century was Jets-Bills on Sep. 11 this season. Some 22.67 million viewed the contest.
Can it be? Wednesday will mark 60 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I will always remember that fateful day. My third grade teacher at the Riverside School, Mrs. Gilson, came running into the classroom and dismissed us early only saying, “Class, something terrible has happened and we are sending you home.” Then while walking home with my friend, his sister came running down the street screaming “They shot the president! They shot the president!”
The country and world changed 60 years ago. Never forget that.
That is going to do it for this week’s newsletter. Thank you for subscribing. For those who celebrate, have a Happy Thanksgiving and pray for peace.