Power trip

Published 4:56 pm Monday, July 7, 2014



AAC commissioner instills confidence heading into 2014 season


For The Washington Daily News


American Athletic Conference (AAC) Commissioner Mike Aresco recently visited ECU and had some hopeful words in regards to both his young conference and Pirate Athletics.

But arguably his most interesting comments came towards the end of the press conference when he addressed his opinion on the future of the American.

“You’ve heard a lot about autonomy. You’ve heard a lot about the ‘Power 5,’ the ‘Equity 5,’ the ‘High Resource 5.’ There’s a lot of different names they’re called. We’re knocking on that door,” he said.

“We look at it as five plus one. We look at it as, down the road, we hope it’ll be six. We think there will be six. We have six teams in our league that once played in a BCS conference or the old Southwest Conference, which was the equivalent.”

American basketball may help to carry the league into the “Power 6,” as long as reigning NCAA National Champion UConn and perennial top-25 Cincinnati remain in the league.

Coach Larry Brown is well on his way to his second consecutive elite and nationally relevant recruiting class at SMU. Memphis has a solid program under Josh Pastner, combined with a history of winning and widespread sellouts at FedEx Forum. Temple also has a basketball culture in place and is capable of being competitive on any given year.

But is the AAC’s brand of basketball strong enough to carry the load?

The American has placed itself firmly in the power conference discussion in basketball, but from a football standpoint, the gap between the AAC and the “Power 5” is probably bigger than the gap between the AAC and the MAC’s and Mountain West’s of the world.

With all the money flowing to power football conferences in this era, the American’s best chance at national relevance is making the gap between itself and the “Power 5” smaller than the gap between the American and the rest of the college football world.

With the landmark television deals between networks like ESPN and the power conferences, the rich are getting richer, so the American can only strive to stay competitive; passing the Big 12 or ACC in relevance is highly unlikely. Aresco and his brand will rely on American football to stay competitive enough where basketball can carry the conference into big time relevance.

UCF recently upset Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and was one, three-point loss at SEC-power South Carolina away from a perfect season. Cincinnati continued its upswing in 2013 with a 9-4 season, and Houston and ECU both look like they could be major contributors to the league.

It looks good on paper right now, but possibly too good.

According to 247sports.com, currently, the SEC has a remarkable 11 teams in the top 40 for 2015 recruiting. That includes eight teams in the top 15.

The Big Ten and ACC both feature nine schools in the top 40, the Pac-12 has logged five and the Big 12 has four.

The only American school: Cincinnati (37).

If the AAC can enter conference supremacy, it needs immediate results before it falls too far behind in recruiting. American football in 2014 will play a significant role in the league’s future fate.