League has no plans to replace UConn

The American Athletic Conference is comfortable with what it has.

Commissioner Mike Aresco got things going for the American Athletic Conference Media Kickoff on Tuesday. After recognizing several people, replacing Connecticut was the first issue Aresco addressed.

UConn announced in June that it’s leaving the AAC to join the Big East. Despite losing a member of the conference and now having 11 football teams, Aresco said he does not plan to replace UConn in the foreseeable future.

“As you know, in the wake of recent events, there has been much speculation regarding our membership going forward,” Aresco said. “It is important, for the sake of comity in college athletics, and among our friends in other conferences, to tamp down that speculation. At this point, we are comfortable with 12 teams, 11 in football and in men’s and women’s basketball, and have no plans to add a member to replace UConn.

“We are not targeting anyone. We are not even sure at this point when UConn will be exiting; negotiations are ongoing. Down the road, if there is someone interested in us who could enhance our strength and brand, we would consider it.”

AAC continuing with ‘Power 6’ campaign

Of all the topics Aresco brought up in his opening remarks, maintaining AAC’s “Power 6” campaign was talked about the most.

AAC has deemed itself a “Power 6” conference, referring that it is up to par with Power 5 conferences, which includes the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC.

“We now stand on the precipice of the next step which I described: wide acceptance as a P6 conference and entry into the autonomous group of conferences,” Aresco said. “We are much more like them than we are different, and they know it. Moses did not send down a tablet with P5 written on it. We will navigate the shoals on our way to this destination, and when we arrive, we will have done it, as the late, great John Houseman used to say in those old Merrill Lynch commercials, ‘The old fashioned way.’ We will have earned it.”

In May, the AAC agreed to a 12-year deal with ESPN, and Tuesday, Aresco announced a new bowl lineup for the conference.

Because of the new deals, as well as recent success, especially from UCF, Aresco said he does not want to be included with “Group of 5” programs.

“We still face headwinds, mainly the result of the G5 label we are currently saddled with, but mark my words, that will change,” Aresco said. “Non-P6 teams do not do landmark TV/media deals, do not finish in or near the top 10 in football four out of six years, have multiple teams annually in the top 25, play a New Year’s Six Bowl game four times in six years and win three of them against top-10 teams, win national championships in football, (UCF) and also in men’s and women’s basketball, and have Olympic sports success and individual NCAA champions.”

AAC embracing ESPN+

Outside of UConn leaving the conference, the biggest headline of the AAC’s offseason was its new deal with ESPN.

The AAC agreed to a 12-year contract with ESPN in May, but the deal does not start until 2020. Football games will still be aired on ABC and ESPN’s cable channels, however, the deal emphasizes coverage on ESPN+, ESPN’s new digital streaming platform, especially for sports other than football. Subscriptions for ESPN+ start at just under $5 a month.

”We are delighted to have renewed with ESPN, and although we will receive in the future more exposure on ESPN’s primary linear platforms for football, and men’s and women’s basketball than in our prior deal, we are also embracing ESPN+, ESPN’s vision of the digital direct-to-consumer future, not fleeing it,” Aresco said. “We are excited to be part of what president Jimmy Pitaro is doing with the company, and we value our outstanding relationship with him and with Burke Magnus and his team.”

Dekota Gregory

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Dekota covers the University of Tulsa football team and ORU men’s basketball team. An Oklahoma State University graduate, he was an intern for the Tulsa World before joining in 2019.