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UConn’s Latest Move to get to the Power 5

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Media Campaign a REAL Stretch!

As anyone who reads stories on college football knows these days, the Big XII is still examining the advantages of expanding beyond their current ten teams.  This is a challenge on several levels which we can discuss at another time.  My point here is about one of the schools attempting to be noticed, The University of Connecticut, or UConn.  Readers here may have heard of it.

Since the football remnants of the Big East gave birth to the American Athletic Conference in 2013, many of the schools have tried desperately to leave.  That must make other members feel proud to belong, I’m sure.  But Cincinnati, UCF, USF (sometimes discussed as a package deal), Memphis and UConn are the most consistently discussed teams to move up to a Power 5 level in the Big XII.  Each of them are spending a lot of time, energy and money lobbying the Big XII schools to "look at me" and choose them for an expansion team.

I happen to have an apartment in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, and the billboard shown above sits over a tire and auto repair place near the Lincoln Tunnel.  I literally stopped in my tracks and stared in disbelief when I saw it, as its message is SO inaccurate.

The implication is that UConn is so close that it is an integral part of NYC.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They are not close geographically, they are not part of the conversation in the city, and they do not have a large fan base there, either.  Let’s look at each briefly:

Geographically, UConn is almost 140 miles from Times Square.  That’s right, 140 miles!  Here’s proof!  What’s closer than UConn to Times Square?  How about the Liberty Bell?  Only 2/3 as far as UConn.  OK, what about other schools?  Temple University? Nope, just about as far as the Liberty Bell.  How about the University of Delaware?  That’s just about as far from Times Square as UConn.  What about other East Coast attractions?  Atlantic City?  Nope, that is closer than UConn.  Delaware Water Gap, PA? Closer.    Places that are just about as far from NYC include the Pennsylvania Dutch Country (Lancaster, PA) and the Basketball Hall of Fame (Springfield, MA)

My too drawn out point?  No one would ever accuse any of those destinations- the Liberty Bell, Temple, University of Delaware, Atlantic City, Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, or the Basketball Hall of Fame as being close enough to Times Square to be considered a "part" of New York City.  What can be considered close?  How about Rutgers’ own High Point Solutions Stadium.  It is less than 40 miles from the stadium to the heart of NYC, Times Square.

Despite this pathetic attempt to make UConn part of the NYC conversation, the results are pretty dramatic.  By more than double the second place team, Rutgers is the most popular college football team in NYC.  And this study was BEFORE Rutgers joined the Big Ten!  UConn demonstrated a 5% share of the market, and was flanked by two other Big Ten schools, Penn State and Michigan!

This is another reason why Jim Delany wanted Rutgers.  With only 21% of the TV college football market in NYC, Rutgers has more viewers than Nebraska has in Omaha.  The size of the market made it too valuable to ignore, and even Rutgers' results in NYC mean huge numbers.

Bottom line, UConn is right to struggle to find a place at a Power 5 table.  But, they ought to be honest in their marketing and use Boston as their draw!  They are 50 miles closer to Boston than they are to NYC.  If I ran marketing in Storrs, that would be my angle, but let’s drop the 6th Borough nonsense, shall we?