AAC Commissioner Regrets Realignment, Supports Break With NCAA Governance

As the American Athletic Conference kicked off football media availability Thursday, Commissioner Mike Aresco addressed a long list of concerns. At the top was the realignment, which was front and center after the three schools leaving next season for the Big 12 (Houston, Cincinnati and UCF) all scored 1, 2, 3 in the preseason poll.

“We can mourn the realignment all we want, but we have to deal with it,” Aresco said. “It’s a difficult and unforgiving business where trust is routinely broken, feelings are hurt, relationships can end, friendships can dissolve, and schools are often blindsided and abandoned.”

Aresco knows firsthand what realignment it can do to a league, as the AAC spent the last decade dealing with its impact.

It all started with the Big 12 defections of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, which had a cascading effect as 22 schools changed conference membership. The SEC and Big Ten expanded their ranks to 16 teams in anticipation of big media rights deals.

Even the AAC is expanding, adding UAB, FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice, and UTSA to its membership in 2023.

“The realignment that we have seen is driven by money and competitive positioning, which are two sides of the same coin,” Aresco said. “You don’t hear much about student-athlete wellness, school loyalty, or goals that don’t include conferences for the bottom dollar.

“I have noticed that the conversations at media days this year have shifted almost entirely to marketing, branding and further realignment. The welfare of student-athletes is rarely mentioned.”

Aresco called for a more equitable system to help combat the drift away from amateurism through NCAA governance and the College Football Playoff.

On the playoffs front, he expressed disappointment that the management group could not agree on the proposed model of 12 teams that would have expanded the current four-team model starting in 2024. The plan, which called for six automatic qualifiers and six overall teams, stalled after some conference commissioners failed to win unanimous approval.

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The group, made up of all 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, plans to meet again in August in hopes of coming up with a new proposal that would take effect at the end of the playoff contract in 2025-26. .

“It was short-sighted not to do it,” Aresco said. “He deprived hundreds of players of having the opportunity to participate in an expanded playoff in 2024 and 2025.”

Aresco does not favor proposals that would eliminate conference championships as a requirement, choosing instead to fill the postseason model with generals.

Even as the college landscape continues to change with no signs of slowing down, Aresco believes now is the time for schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision to govern themselves separate from the NCAA.

“It is reasonable to believe that FBS football should be governed by committees made up solely of FBS representatives,” he said. “FBS commissioners should have a significant role in the running of FBS football. Soccer is clearly a separate and distinct entity within the NCAA and could benefit from its own governance structure.

“It may make sense to simplify the governance process through FBS self-governance. This will be an ongoing discussion that our conference will engage in.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Matt Murschel at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.

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