Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why is UConn in New Orleans for New Year's/Sugar Bowl week?

Maybe this is a question only the media cares about and fans, players and coaches could care less about, but I had to ask AAC senior associate commissioner for broadcasting and digital content Tom Odjakjian: why schedule UConn to play at Tulane on Jan. 2?

Or, more to the point: why have Tulane play a home game at all this weekend, what with New Year's Eve festivities, followed by the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day?

The answer simply came down to helping UConn out with travel. The Huskies played Texas in Austin on Tuesday night, as you know, and the league wanted to schedule their AAC opener somewhere within the "Southwest Corridor" of the league's territory. That pretty much means SMU, Tulsa, Houston or Tulane.

SMU was out of the question, since the league wants to save marquee matchups like UConn-SMU for later in the season for TV purposes. Tulsa and Houston were options, but Tulane had no problems playing its biggest name foe at home while students are away on break. And while the league blacks out New Orleans for Mardi Gras week, it does no such thing for New Year's.

Since Tulane isn't playing any games this season downtown, the Sugar Bowl crowds wouldn't have too much of an effect. It came down to Saturday or Sunday, and Tulane was fine with Saturday -- as was the league, so it didn't go up against the NFL's final week or the regular season.

And so, here we are. Yes, flights and hotels were a bit more expensive, but again, that's really just a media concern, not the team's.

No doubt, the Huskies are fine with being in New Orleans for New Year's Eve, though I wouldn't expect them to be frolicking around Bourbon Street. UConn typically has an 11 p.m. curfew on the road, so any ringing in the new year will likely have to be done inside the team hotel. Not that any of the players would be expected to get in any trouble -- quite to the contrary, this is one of the nicest, most respectful Husky teams I've covered.

But, let's face it, put a group of college kids in the French Quarter on New Year's Eve and anything can happen.

In other news: That Feb. 20 game at Cincinnati could still possibly be an ESPN Gameday affair, though nothing will likely be certain until at least a couple of weeks in advance. Apparently, Kentucky-Texas A&M is among the other possible games ESPN would feature with its Gameday crew.



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