UConn leaving AAC after accepting invitation to join Big East Conference in all sports except football

UConn has officially approved its move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big East Conference.

The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees unanimously voted Wednesday in favor of accepting the Big East's invitation in all sports except football, which the conference does not sponsor. CBS Sports previously reported that the Big East's presidents formally approved UConn's invitation to the conference on Monday.

The Big East confirmed it will hold a joint press conference at noon, Thursday at Madison Square Garden to formally welcome the Huskies to the conference.

UConn will spend one more year in the AAC before bolting to the Big East in advance of the 2020-21 season in all sports except football, which is facing the possibility of playing as an independent if it cannot make its way into another conference. 

A member of the original Big East Conference from 1979-2013,  UConn joined the AAC in 2013, its inaugural year. In 2014, under then-coach Kevin Ollie, the men's basketball team won its fourth national championship. The UConn women's basketball program, long regarded as the best in its sport, won national titles as an AAC member in 2014, 2015 and 2016. 

UConn is the only AAC school to make a men's or women's Final Four as a member of the conference. 

The addition of UConn bolsters a Big East Conference that was already performing at a much higher level than expected when it splintered off amid massive conference realignment six years ago. Sources indicate that the Big East opting to include UConn would likely firm up the conference's long-term vision. By staying at 11 teams, the league could still have a round-robin intra-conference schedule in basketball and maintain its double-bye format for its postseason tournament. UConn's inclusion to the Big East now makes it only the second non-Catholic institution in the conference (Butler University being the other).

The UConn addition comes as a strong coup for the Big East, which earlier this year extended its agreement with Madison Square Garden. The conference has locked in holding the Big East Tournament at MSG through 2028. The league has played its annual conference championship at MSG every year since 1983. It's the longest-running men's basketball tournament continuously held at one venue.

The move to bring aboard UConn was relatively swift, as Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman told CBS Sports six months ago that the league was not officially exploring expansion -- but was always keeping its options open.

"Geography would be important," Ackerman said last December. "Commitment to basketball would probably be the No. 1 thing, the notion that they would be additive as it relates to our basketball prospects. Are they going to help secure our chances every year of getting into the NCAA Tournament? Possible No. 2: Would they help us with our tournament? Would they bring fans to Madison Square Garden?"

The Big East was already selling out its Friday and Saturday ticket sessions. Come 2021, it will be an even tougher ticket. 

Meantime, the AAC moves forward needing to decide if it will stick at 11 schools in light of losing UConn or if it will try to replace the Huskies with another viable program. On the football side, almost any program would be seen as an upgrade over UConn, but in basketball, it would be difficult to find a match. 

Sources told CBS Sports that it's more likely than not that the AAC opts to stay put at 11 for the short-term. If a move was made for basketball purposes, VCU -- out of the Atlantic 10 -- could be the strongest contender due to its location, strong fan base, resources and respectable history of winning.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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