On Monday, the American Athletic Conference takes its place along the terrain of collegiate athletics.
At that point, UConn, with its 11 national championships in women's and men's basketball, will have added status in a league that not only hopes to stay together, but grow together.
Speaking to The Courant Wednesday, conference commissioner Mike Aresco said he looks forward to UConn's help and dedication to the startup league.
"It's vitally important to us that UConn has already demonstrated that," Aresco said. "Susan Herbst [UConn's president] and Warde Manuel [athletic director] have been incredibly supportive, not only with their public comments but in their internal dealings the conference, things the public does not see.
"We know conference realignment may not be over, but the system has stabilized and we all recognize it. I believe we are all committed now to making The American the best conference it can be for the membership. … It's important to us that UConn continues to play at a high level nationally, and we are confident it can do that here."
During a 30-minute interview, Aresco touched on a number of topics.
Earlier this month, The American announced that its first women's tournament will be held at the Mohegan Sun Arena and its inaugural men's tourney in Memphis.
"The Big East always looked hard at the Mohegan Sun. There was opposition among some of the schools that left [among the Catholic 7 now in the new Big East]. But those schools that remained [UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida] had no objection," Aresco said. "Hotel and casino complexes have staged tournaments. Several conferences play in Las Vegas and Mohegan Sun does not have a sports gambling license.
"You don't need to walk through the casino to get the arena if you don't want to. There are so many positives about the place that the fans will enjoy. But the main thing, it has an arena that works perfectly for us. They are known for running great tournaments and own the WNBA's Sun.
"One of our concerns was playing in an arena that was a little too big. And the financial arrangement at Mohegan is superior. The office is happy about that. We appreciate what Hartford did for us, what the XL Center has meant to women's basketball over the years."
Aresco confirmed that there are only one-year deals to operate in Mohegan at Memphis. The American holds the option on both for 2014. He also said he has not made up his mind regarding permanent tournament sites that mirror the relationship the Big East had with Madison Square Garden and the XL Center.
Aresco added that The American is discussing ways to help ease transportation issues fans might have reaching Uncasville, including the use of shuttle buses to reach the venue.
The women's tournament will be held from Friday, March 7 to Monday, March 10. The men's tournament will run Wednesday, March 12 to Saturday, March 16. Aresco said the title game would likely begin at 6 p.m. All 10 teams will participate in the events.
Quality Of Women's Hoops
Last season, the Big East placed three teams in the women's Final Four: Eventual champion UConn, Notre Dame and Louisville. And Louisville won the men's national title.
After this season, only UConn will remain, leaving the conference the task of developing its own core of national powers.
"We need more competition. More teams to emerge," Aresco said. "UConn wants that too, so it can ensure high-level competition.