Reports: Big East prepared to invite UConn to return

The Big East voted Monday to extend an invitation to Connecticut, a former member of the conference that left for the American Athletic Conference in 2013, to return to the league, according to multiple media reports Monday.

UConn has a Board of Trustees media set for Wednesday, and the invitation could be accepted that day with a formal announcement by the Big East expected to follow on Thursday.

AAC bylaws call for UConn to pay a $10 million withdrawal fee as well as provide 27 months’ notice. But ESPN reported that departure terms were being negotiated on Monday.

The return of UConn would give the Big East 11 basketball programs.

“I know a little bit about the back and forth on it. I think it could be a great thing for the state,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters at an unrelated news conference Monday. “Let’s face it: UConn, in particular UConn basketball, we can compete with anybody. We’re ready to take on the very best. Let’s see how the negotiations go.”

UConn was a founding member of the Big East in 1979, and its men’s basketball program flourished in the conference. The Huskies won the 1999, 2004 and 2011 national titles under coach Jim Calhoun while they were members of a league that once was considered on par with the Atlantic Coast Conference as the top basketball leagues in the nation.

UConn also won the 2014 national crown under Kevin Ollie in its first season in the AAC but is currently in the midst of three straight losing seasons, the first two under Ollie and last year’s 16-17 mark under Dan Hurley.

The UConn women’s basketball program has continued to shine in the AAC but also has gone three straight seasons without winning the national crown. The Huskies won 10 of the previous 17 national titles.

Women’s coach Geno Auriemma said the current Big East isn’t the same one as from the league’s glory days.

“It’s like saying you’re moving back to your hometown, but the block that you lived on and half the city is gone,” Auriemma told reporters at a charity golf event. “It’s not the same.”

The future of UConn’s football program isn’t clear as the AAC isn’t expected to have any interest in letting the school stay aboard as a football-only member. The Huskies went 1-11 last season and are 18-55 in six seasons since joining the AAC.

UConn was part of the Big East for football from 2004-12, but the conference quit sponsoring the sport after the 2012 campaign.

The current Big East is filled with programs considered “basketball schools,” including former UConn rivals Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova.

The other schools in the league are Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette and Xavier.