NEWPORT, R.I. – Last year at football media day, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco addressed the possibility of one or more American schools leaving the conference for the Big XII.
“Big XII expansion, if it happens, and it appears probable, will again change the landscape of college athletics,” Aresco said last July. “As presently constituted, the American is a Power Six conference, and it deserves that designation. We have been incredibly competitive.”
That possibility never came to fruition, keeping UConn, Cincinnati and other potential candidates in the American, which only grew stronger in the past year after adding Wichita State as a basketball and Olympic sports member in April.
Tuesday in Newport, Aresco once again invoked the term “Power Six” as he talked about the conference’s place in the landscape of college athletics, and he did so in front of a white banner bearing logos that said “P6” and “American Pow6r.”
“The conference is clearly on the cusp of great things, having already accomplished so much in our relatively brief history. We have issued a strategic plan that will guide our efforts to be and remain a Power 6 conference,” Aresco said Tuesday.
Aresco talked about the growth that the conference has made since its formation in 2013, and how competitive its teams have been nationally.
“Our schools have met with success and have built a Power 6 brand,” Aresco said, putting the American into the company of the five conferences commonly referred to as the Power 5: the ACC, the Pac-12, the Big XII, the Big Ten and the SEC.
The commissioner moved onto the topic of football specifically, citing “two major New Year’s bowl wins” and “19 P6/Notre Dame wins in football over the past two years” as notches in the conference’s belt. Outside of football, Aresco also cited “a men’s basketball championship in 2014” and “three women’s basketball championships” as accomplishments that sit on the American’s “Power 6 résumé.”
After talking about the conference’s presence in the 2017 NFL Draft and its roster of new coaches, Aresco moved his focus to the future.
“Our next step is critical. We want to be accepted eventually as an autonomy P6 conference because we believe we are already a P6 conference, and correspondingly we want and need a TV/media deal that recognizes what we have achieved and affords us the resources to continue to build the conference and continue to compete successfully with the other P6 conferences in the ever-competitive college football environment,” Aresco said.
Aresco acknowledged that the conference provided ESPN with its two highest Thursday night ratings during the past season, lending the American increased credence with the viewing public, as well as other conferences.
“The other P6 conferences increasingly see us as a peer conference and enjoy scheduling us,” Aresco said. “We have averaged 26 P6 games over the past four years, and our goal is to play at least half of our nonconference games against other P6 schools, and possibly more. This is ambitious, but we welcome the challenge, it will strengthen us further.”
New UConn head coach Randy Edsall, who continues to work towards the fall with his coaching staff, praised the American for its efforts, but remains focused on the task at hand. The Huskies were picked to finish last in the AAC East in the preseason media poll.
“We have to get that culture of winning back and culture of team in place,” Edsall said.