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Stadium study due next month

With one eye on the clock, UConn officials are pushing forward with a study that will play a major role in determining whether the football team joins Division I-A.

Big East officials have set a deadline of December 31 for UConn to decide whether it will make the move to Division I-A college football, joining the ranks of Big East - and national - football powers Syracuse, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Miami. (Other Big East teams inc-lude West Virginia, Rutgers, Temple, and Virginia Tech.) If the deadline passes without UConn joining Division I-A, the University will no longer be automatically eligible to join The Big East football conference.

At issue is not so much whether UConn should join Division I-A - several studies have confirmed it would be a positive move, and the Board of Trustees two years ago endorsed the concept - but how to fund construction of a new stadium, and where it should be built.

The University has enlisted the help of consulting firm KPMG Peat Marwick to update the information for a study that is expected to be completed by mid-October. The report will be presented to the Board of Trustees and submitted to the governor and the leadership of the General Assembly for review. Lorraine Aronson, special assistant to the chancellor, has been working with Peat Marwick on the study.

Both President Philip Austin and Chancellor Mark Emmert have stated that any costs associated with the program must not be at the expense of the University's academic mission.

Previous studies of stadium development presumed the presence of the Hartford Whalers or the relocation of a National Football League team, and hence did not provide sufficient information for an informed judgement about a stadium primarily for UConn football. With the departure of the Whalers last spring and diminished likelihood of a major professional sports team to occupy a large facility, the focus of this stadium study is UConn Division I-A football.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) requires Division I-A teams to play in a stadium with at least 30,000 seats. UConn's Memorial Stadium seats 16,200. The study will review options including expanding Memorial Stadium, constructing a new stadium at Storrs, or building a new stadium in Hartford.

In addition to an analysis of possible sites, the report will include a market analysis and information on construction, operating and ancillary costs, and anticipated revenues.

Richard Veilleux