The University of Connecticut Huskies travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan today to take on Michigan in the Big House in front of what is expected to be the biggest crowed in the history of college football.
Michigan, its alumni and fans will mark the occasion by celebrating the ‘reopening’ of its stadium, known affectionately as ‘The Big House’, which recently underwent a $226 million expansion. UConn, with only a sliver of the football history that Michigan enjoys, is merely 3 point underdogs. That slight a margin would have been an unthinkable proposition only a few years ago.
UConn has never been considered, nor considered itself, a football school. UConn is a state school in the non football state of Connecticut. Wedged about midway between Boston and New York City, the college has carved itself a narrow but deep niche in the sport of college basketball. Since Jim Calhoun took the reins of the program in 1986, after leaving Northeastern University in Boston, the school has become a perennial top twenty powerhouse in men’s basketball. On the women’s side, it is one of the most dominant programs of all time.
For years, however, UConn’s football program lagged far behind its basketball program. In 1999 UConn made the move to Division 1-A, however, and its progress has been steady ever since.
While this may be a down era for Michigan football, it is below .500 for the past two season, it is still a big time power, and inviting UConn to play in the re-opening of the Big House may have been gutsy, but not smartest thing to do as UConn is a favorite to win its Big East conference this year and get an invitation to a big time bowl game.
While it may be a stretch to say that a UConn win today would shock the nation, it is truly the best chance the program has ever had to make a bold statement on a national stage as it readies itself to win the Big East and play in a major bowl game.
While basketball will likely always be king in Connecticut, the football program, with a small but well designed stadium in East Hartford, continues to grow and prosper. What it has not quite yet achieved, however, is prominence on the national stage. The Big East is a respectable, if not big time, conference. It is not, however, among the very elite…at least not yet.
The University of Connecticut football team can help itself, and its conference today with a win over Michigan in the Big House.
Source: Jessica Hill, “UConn’s Edsall has proven to be a master builder”, boston.com