The past two nights have brought two fresh events to the Connecticut sports scene. On one end of the spectrum, professional football visited Hartford in the form of the United Football League (UFL). At the opposite end, six college basketball teams kicked off a showcase of Division I teams not named UConn.
Inspired by the fifty-five year old “Philadelphia Big 5″, the similarly named Connecticut 6 is designed to shine a light upon the State’s mid-majors. But that’s not the sole objective of the Connecticut 6. A few weeks ago, when asked about the event, Yale coach James Jones spoke of the bond between the Philadelphia schools and their respective coaches. “They’re thick as thieves” said Jones. One could imply that the Connecticut 6 schools hope that, over time, a similar bond can develop.
But tonight, the focus was on the present. The focus was on Yale vs. Sacred Heart; Fairfield vs. Central Connecticut; and Quinnipiac vs. Hartford. The focus was whether the Connecticut 6 could drum up interest in the state’s mid-majors. Was it successful?
Much like Thursday’s UFL game, it is far too early to judge. Attendance appeared between 25-40 percent capacity of the 10,000-seat Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, thinning out before the final game of the triple-header. The games were competitive and spirited; Sacred Heart outlasted Yale, 92 to 86; Fairfield beat Central Connecticut 67 to 58; and Quinnipiac pulled way from Hartford for a 85-74 victory.
Also similar to the UFL, there is some room for improvement. Marketing efforts were sparse. It seemed that there was little mention of the Connecticut 6 from its announcement in May, to the recent launch of the Connecticut 6 website. Some fans mentioned being unable to locate the official website, and had trouble finding the actual start times for the games.
Scheduling conflicts also posed problems. As the Courant’s Jeff Jacobs noted before the event:
The Huskies open tonight against William & Mary and even if the Tribe only bring along Mary, there’s little doubt the primary attention will be on Gampel Pavilion. Forget UConn or anything on TV. There’s also No. 3 Cornell at No. 12 Yale in hockey, Harvard at No. 20 Quinnipiac in hockey and all sorts of high school football for competition at the gate. Affecting the Fairfield student crowd, there’s a 4 p.m. Stags MAAC semifinal soccer game, too. (Click here to read Jacobs’ entire article on the Connecticut 6).
Although not perfect, the Connecticut 6 has potential. The event moves to Mohegan Sun for the next two years, which should attract additional interest. With a year’s head start, hopefully the Connecticut 6 schools put forth a greater marketing effort for next year. Nevertheless, the Connecticut 6 is a welcome addition to the Connecticut sports scene. If the event can recreate a fraction of the success of the Philadelphia Big 5, the schools of the Connecticut 6 will have achieved something.