American Football The American will be difficult by adding another football...

The American will be difficult by adding another football school

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At a teleconference earlier this week, presidents of the American Athletic Conference listened to Susan Herbst, president of the University of Connecticut, outline her school's plan to leave for the Big East and hope to stay as a member of football.

"It was a no," an informed source on Thursday said. "It was not just a no … it was not happening."

While UConn and the Big East officially announced the return of the Huskies to the basketball-centric league from 2020, about 200 miles away, the CAA had barely flinched.

AAFC Commissioner Mike Aresco issued a one-paragraph statement.

"We wish good luck to UConn," reads partially in the statement.

Do not let the door hit you at the exit.

Oh, how things have changed.

Three summers after nearly half of its members are lined up for the speed dating version of the conference realignment – all for the chance to join the Big 12 – for the first time, the AAC is on the other side.

There remains a huge gap in the distribution of income between the top five business groups and the group of five. And the AAC "Power Six" initiative has not yet gained popularity with the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12.

What has changed, though, is that the AAC is now in a strong position, thanks to a new $ 1 billion, 12-year TV deal, the top-five status of the Group of Five, and the need to rush or panic to find a replacement. UConn.

"It's a buyer's market, and we're in a great position," said Chris Pezman, vice president of athletics at UH.

Asked about UConn's decision to leave, Pezman said: "They made a decision in their best interest; we will make decisions that are in ours. "

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle on Thursday night, Aresco said the CAA had no interest in keeping UConn as a member of football.

Aresco said the AAC's sporting directors would meet by teleconference on Friday to discuss the future of the league and the football media days on July 14-15 in Newport, R.I.

"I think we will have a pretty good idea of ​​the direction we will take for conference attendance by press day and how we want to structure football," Aresco said.

One topic of discussion is whether to add new schools or stay with 11 teams.

"We will consider a 12th school, but unless this school helps us strengthen our brand and actually strengthen our brand, why would we do it?" Said Aresco. "We will not do anything that dilutes the mark and diminishes us at all."

The AAC has a "very small list" of potential candidates for expansion, according to a source, which only seriously includes BYU and Army.

As one source added, the AAC has the luxury of being "difficult".

If AAFC is looking to expand, Aresco said the league was not looking for a northeastern presence to replace UConn, and that cultural and strategic adjustments outweighed geography. The AAC is still present in the area with Temple in Philadelphia.

At the league's spring meetings in May, Aresco had launched the idea of ​​eliminating the two-division format and allowing the two top-ranked teams to face each other in a similar league match to that of the Big 12. Aresco stated that this idea had not aroused any interest from the schools. . In addition, such an approach would require a special exemption from the NCAA.

"I think things have changed," said Aresco about a possible interest.

Another important issue is the potential impact of UConn's departure on the league's new media rights agreement, which will come into effect in 2020. The $ 1 billion deal Dollars includes a clause that would allow ESPN to renegotiate the departure of a member, according to the Sports daily. Business Journal. One source said the clause was specifically related to five schools (Houston, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Memphis and South Florida), of which UConn was not included.

Under current terms, each CAA school was to receive about $ 7 million a year. The departure of UConn could result in an additional increase of $ 700,000.

The league will also have to decide with schedule; For example, Houston had a home meeting against UConn scheduled for 2020. To replace that match, Pezman said the school would likely add a divisional match (likely against Temple, East Carolina or USF) that might not not be taken into account in the conference ranking. The addition of a fifth game off-conference is not an option.

The most important impact on the AAC will be basketball, where UConn is a national brand. The men's basketball team won a national title in 2013 and the women's program was raised to 120-0 in the league and won three consecutive national titles from 2013 to 16.

Even with UConn's departure, the AAC is expected to remain strong with four teams – nominations for the NCAA tournaments in Houston, Cincinnati, UCF and Temple in 2018.

A few hours after Thursday's announcement, Aresco was optimistic about the future of CAA, which is entering its seventh year.

"(Our member schools) are united, more determined than ever," said Aresco. "This group is energized."

joseph.duarte@chron.com

twitter.com/joseph_duarte

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