The operative word, of course, is "could." As in could happen. As in you could throw cranberry up against the wall this Thanksgiving and see what sticks.
After working the back channels Wednesday, I could produce no evidence the Big Ten and Jim Delany will make a run at UConn — although Rutgers is proof all things are possible. Seeing it already is Wednesday night I do have it on the highest authority that UConn did not join the ACC on Tuesday.
This is what I know, folks. Every tweet, every Internet filing about college expansion sets off convulsions around Connecticut. And this is what I'm being told: The UConn hierarchy is quietly confident in its ACC candidacy. The emphasis this time is on quiet.
When Maryland bolted the ACC and Rutgers the Big East for the Big Ten earlier in the week, the heavyweights at Louisville pumped up the volume on the merits of Cardinals U. You can hardly blame them. Louisville is a great college sports town. Athletic director Tom Jurich has done an excellent job. The basketball and football teams are enjoying high times. New arena downtown. Expanded football stadium.
Some in Connecticut took the talk as cocksureness. UConn is doomed. Others took it as a form of begging. Louisville is doomed.
The truth is it doesn't matter. UConn did plenty of talking last year, heck, even Gov. Dannel P. Malloy got into the act and it didn't hasten an invitation from ACC commissioner John Swofford. So while a number of UConn fans are alarmed that not enough noise is coming out of Storrs and others wonder why President Susan Herbst and athletic director Warde Manuel are in the Virgin Islands for the women's Paradise Jam at such a sensitive time, I am being assured they are quite the island ducks.
Not the Lucky Ducks. That crown belongs to Rutgers. As Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger wrote, the Scarlet Knights are the national champions of realignment. I mean, really. What's the payback? Does Bruce Springsteen have to announce he's from Michigan or, like his album, Nebraska?
Anyway, what I'm being told is that while Herbst and Manuel are saying little these days, they are paddling like crazy out of view, contacting their ACC peers up and down the East Coast.
That's good to know, because Herbst, a Dookie, and Manual, a Michigan man, also have to know much of their reputations and career aspirations ride on where UConn ultimately ends up on the national landscape. It isn't entirely fair — they cannot invite themselves to the party — yet time and circumstance have found UConn at a crossroads and they are driving the bus. Can Herbst and her self-anointed "rock star" drive it to Tobacco Road?
"Nothing different at this time," Manuel said from islands Wednesday.
Make no mistake, different is coming and it's coming like a freight train. The ACC presidents will meet the weekend of Dec. 1 at the ACC football championship, although there's no telling if a decision will break tomorrow, next weekend or six months from now. A source even told the Louisville Courier-Journal he had heard no talk within the ACC that there definitely would be expansion or that Louisville and UConn are the front-runners. Cranberry, please. We go on devouring every morsel, truth or speculation, like starving dogs.
As the Big Ten made clear in adding Maryland and Rutgers, two debt-ridden athletic departments, it's not about football anymore. It's not even about who is watching football. It's about the cable bill. As Dan Wetzel wrote for Yahoo! the genius of the Big Ten Network is the untold millions found in what amounts to a Big Ten tax. Just as the costs for ESPN are embedded in your monthly statement, so it is in areas that carry BTN. And since the Big Ten is in with Fox, which is buying a stake in YES, it's no secret what the Big Ten is doing. It's infinitely more about bringing goods to new Eastern markets, ones flush with Michigan and Ohio State alums, than it is about bringing Maryland football to Minnesota.
By the time they sign their new TV deal in 2017, Big Ten schools, currently getting about $25 million, should be sharing in excess of $30 million each. Some projections are for much higher. Big East football schools are getting $6 million. ACC schools $17 million. So if the ACC is looking at size of TV markets as a requisite, it goes beyond pointing out Hartford-New Haven is the No. 30 market and Louisville 48. Fairfield County, with more than a quarter of Connecticut's population, is counted in the New York market.
The idea, once forwarded by ex-BC AD Gene DeFilippo, that UConn would be fighting for the same ACC turf is ludicrous. BC and UConn would make terrific partners in extending the ACC television footprint from Boston to New York. An apology to the ninnies from both sides who want to extend the war: It would be the best thing to happen for both schools.
So will the Big Ten model be the ACC's in expansion and eventually in a television network? Or will there be some different considerations in replacing Maryland? Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said something ominous when asked if he wanted UConn or Louisville. He answered he first wanted a vulnerable ACC to get its house in order.
Will the ACC stay true to itself and its academics? Logic says UConn is a good fit: a state school along the Atlantic Coast, with basketball programs that have combined for 10 national titles and a growing academic reputation that has placed it 63rd in the U.S. News & World Report. Louisville is 160.
Or could the league have to bow to demands of certain schools and add a football power? Or will places like Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State pine for the Big 12 and SEC anyway? And what about Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and, as Blaudschun wrote, Boston College? Could the Big Ten ambush the ACC again?
Membership in the Association of American Universities is something the Big Ten has wanted in expanding. That didn't stop it from courting non-member Notre Dame, while Nebraska got into the Big Ten and subsequently was removed by the AAU. Membership isn't based solely on academic performance. It's also based on research spending and faculty prestige. In a conversation on Sunday, Herbst did say an AAU invitation is a long-term goal. Stop the presses! That's clear evidence UConn could be trying to get into the Big Ten. Just kidding.
Although some people at UConn pooh-pooh this, some in the ACC balked at UConn in the past because of the academic performance of Jim Calhoun's teams. The good news is UConn has cleaned this up the past few years.
In the meantime, Coach K is right. The ACC has to get its house in order quickly. And when it does, here's something Swofford and the ACC should consider: If UConn got an ACC bid, unless the conference crumbled, I would argue it would be for at least 50 years. If Louisville got invited, I'd argue they'd jump at the first invitation from the Big 12 or SEC. Heck, the Big 12 is stupid for not inviting Louisville already.
In the meantime, Louisville kicks off against UConn on Saturday and somehow, someone will turn it into a referendum on what school should be in the ACC. So expect a nonsensical twitter after the final whistle.
Who knows? It could be from me.