UConn officially rejoins Big East after seven-year absence

UConn is officially back in the Big East.

The Huskies on Wednesday were readmitted to the league where they spent 34 years, from 1979 to 2013. The move was announced and authorized last summer, but it couldn't become official until July 1.

"The Big East is an incredibly special and enduring part of our heritage," then-UConn president Susan Herbst said last June. "We were a founding member 40 years ago. Our programs grew and thrived in this conference over decades. The intensity of the competition, the passion of our rivalries and all our most triumphant wins and toughest losses helped to make us who we are. Coming back here means UConn is coming home. We are excited about the future."

UConn was an original member of the Big East in 1979 but left in 2013 when the league's seven basketball-focused private schools broke away to form the new Big East. The Huskies landed in the American Athletic Conference, along with former Big East members Cincinnati, Temple and South Florida. The new Big East kept DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova while adding Butler, Creighton and Xavier.

UConn will be the league's 11th member.

"On the 40th anniversary of our founding in 1979, we're very excited to welcome back the University of Connecticut, a Big East charter member," Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said last June. "As a group of schools rooted in basketball preeminence, we can think of no better partner than UConn to join us in perpetuating the rivalries, traditions and successes that have made the Big East unlike any other conference in college basketball. We know that our competitions and the experiences of our student-athletes, coaches and supporters across all of our sports will be greatly enriched by UConn's return."

UConn became a national brand in men's and women's basketball during its time in the Big East. The men's program won three of its four national championships while representing the conference, while the women's program has established itself as the best in the country under Geno Auriemma with 11 titles, eight while in the Big East.

Auriemma said Wednesday he was looking forward to being in a conference that made more sense geographically, and revisiting long-familiar arenas.

"This pandemic has exposed a lot of flaws in the system," Auriemma said of the travel expenses that have come along with conference realignment. "When I got the job at UConn [in 1985], we took a bus almost everywhere. Maybe we'd have a flight to Pittsburgh, or a flight to Georgetown, and maybe one other trip a year someplace. And then, you know, things changed."

Auriemma is happy with the setup of Big East women's basketball games being played on Friday-Sunday, and how much closer some of those trips will be than what the Huskies had in the American.

"It's just going to bring back a lot of great memories, you know, like driving over to Providence," he said. "I know some of the people are different, but there's also a lot of people at those universities that are still there, that were there when we left. So I'm looking forward to reconnecting with that."

The football program, which hasn't won a conference game since 2017 and is 3-21 over the past two seasons, will become an independent, as the Big East doesn't sponsor football.