NEWPORT, R.I. — American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco says that the league won’t rush to replace the University of Connecticut and currently doesn’t have plans to do so, but that it will keep an open mind on the subject.
UConn last month accepted an invitation to join the Big East Conference and announced its pending withdrawal from the AAC in all sports. Temple has been a member of the AAC since the conference was formed in 2013.
The conference bylaws require UConn to pay a $10 million withdrawal fee and give 27 months’ notice before leaving. The two sides are negotiating the exit. It has been speculated that UConn could leave by the end of the 2019-20 school year.
“We have no plans to add a member to replace UConn and are not targeting anyone,” Aresco said at the AAC’s football media day. “I am not sure at this point when UConn’s exit will be, as negotiations are ongoing and they have been very amicable.”
Still, Aresco isn’t closing the door on future expansion.
“Down the road if somebody is interested in us, who can enhance the strength of our brand, we will consider it,” he said.
UConn’s departure would leave the AAC with 11 football and 11 basketball programs. In basketball, the teams are in one division, but in football there are two six-team divisions.
If UConn is not immediately replaced in football, Aresco suggested an idea of going to an 11-team league, with no divisions. Under this format, teams would play two permanent opponents and six rotating opponents every year. (Teams currently play eight AAC games and four nonleague games, and that would still be the case.) For instance, Aresco mentioned that Central Florida and South Florida, one of the great rivalries in their state, would match up every year.
Aresco cautioned that this format is far from certain, saying it’s just one of those that the AAC is looking into.
Aresco said that the league won’t abandon its championship game, in which the East and West Division champions currently play one another.
Temple lost to Houston in the 2015 championship game and won the AAC title the following year.
If the AAC goes to 11 teams, it would need a waiver to conduct a league championship game. Aresco said the conference would request that waiver.
Scott Draper, the AAC associate commissioner for football, said that to play a championship football game, a league needs to play a round-robin format, or a round-robin format in the division. Neither would be possible if the AAC went to one 11-team league, since the AAC is insistent on playing eight conference games and four nonconference games.
Aresco says he is confident the AAC would earn a waiver if it decides to go with 11 teams.
Future bowl lineup
The AAC announced its new bowl lineup from 2020 through 2025, and the conference is guaranteed seven bowl appearances in each year of the new cycle. (The AAC also is guaranteed seven bowl appearances in 2019.)
Here is the AAC bowl lineup from 2020-25:
Military Bowl, every year of the new deal.
Armed Forces Bowl and Hawaii Bowl, in alternating years.
Bowl game to be named (in Boston), each year.
In addition, the AAC is guaranteed four selections annually from among these: Birmingham Bowl in Alabama; Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, Fla.); SERVPRO First Responder Bowl (Dallas); Frisco Bowl (Frisco, Texas); AutoNation Cure Bowl (Orlando, Fla.); Myrtle Beach Bowl in South Carolina; and New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque.
First-year Temple coach Rod Carey brought four seniors to AAC media day: receiver Isaiah Wright, linebacker Shaun Bradley, offensive guard Jovahn Fair, and linebacker Chapelle Russell.
Wright was the AAC special teams player of the year last season. Bradley was a first-team all-conference selection, while Fair made the second team. Russell is among the more inspirational players, having overcome two ACL surgeries.