As the Big East made it official on Thursday and invited their former member UConn back into the fold officially, the next step for the American Athletic Conference (which the Huskies are leaving behind) is to figure out what to do with an odd number of 11 teams?
To that end, the AAC athletic directors, including UCF’s Danny White and USF’s Michael Kelly will be on a conference call on Friday discussing the options moving forward.
Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer had more details on the call being the first of several steps for the 11 remaining members, including it’s two Florida schools, to decide what to do with football and basketball schedules.
And, also, they must discuss the ramifications with the new ESPN TV deal that the conference just announced earlier this year:
As UConn holds a presser to unveil a return to the Big East, ADs from around the AAC plan to have a conference call tomorrow to continue discussions about the future https://t.co/6hkEi46WJg
— Fletcher Page (@FletcherPage) June 27, 2019
First, UConn will play its final season this year and that gives some time for the AAC to act. They, obviously ideally would look to add a program that plays both FBS football and basketball, and therefore, solve the unequal number of teams and scheduling for both sports.
This is why it is largely believed that the American will not invite BYU, who is currently an FBS football independent with the rest of their programs in the West Coast Conference. If the AAC did offer to BYU for football only, it would still necessitate the American adding yet another program with for every other sport but football. The AAC did that with Wichita State two years ago.
There is also been speculation that the conference may make an offer to Air Force, as a full-time, all sports member to leave the Mountain West Conference. Part of that is based on Air Force playing rival Navy, the football only member of the AAC, annually.
However it’s not likely that the Falcons would be willing to part with a lot of their traditional rivals and regional matchups from the last 20 years of the Mountain West to come play programs like Memphis, East Carolina, USF, UCF, Tulane in the Southeast on a regular basis.
That geographical issue was part of UConn’s frustration, as they were virtually isolated in the Northeastern footprint away from where most of their opponents were in the AAC.
The American has two very real concerns at the forefront:
First, as Page relayed in his story, ESPN could alter the newly announced 12 year deal that is supposed to represent at least $7 million in revenue per school annually. That deal has a clause that says if the AAC loses a member(s), then the rights fee can be decreased by the network.
Further, the NCAA has mandated that in order for the conference to play a championship game, which the American has had for the last four years, it must have 12 schools or play an equal round robin schedule.
Obviously the AAC doesn’t have a 12th school, at the moment, and you cannot equally play a round-robin schedule with 11 teams with only nine conference games.
UCF has hosted and won the American Conference Championship Game each of the last two years. They then went on to defeat Auburn in the Peach Bowl and complete a perfect season in 2017. However, they lost to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl snapping their 27 game win streak in January..
Finally, it seems a simple solution would be to invite UAB, which brought back FBS football two years ago and won the Conference USA Championship game and its bowl game. The Blazers also have a solid men’s basketball program, as well.
Plus, Birmingham is a significant television market and is in the Southeast footprint with other programs like Memphis, Tulane, East Carolina, and the Bulls and the Knights. All of those American programs have also been previously in Conference USA with the Blazers.
Now, we wait to see the course of action that the A.D.’s and AAC commissioner Mike Aresco take.
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