Monday, July 1, 2013

Just Another Day at the Office for American Athletic Conference Commish Mike Aresco? Not Exactly

It wasn't necessarily just another day at the office today for Mike Aresco, the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference. While his office is the same -- complete with a large Big East Conference sign in the front office -- the league is very different. Aresco is very excited about The American's possibilities:

Here's some more of what Aresco had to say from his office this morning:

"It’s felt like we’ve already launched, in the sense that we’ve got the new name, the new logo. July 1 is more of an official date -- you note it on the calendar. The practical effect is that we have the four new teams come in."

"We look back at where we were in December and January. There were a lot of people who gave us no chance. They thought we would dissolve, or the whole thing would be come completely a litigious mess in every respect. They thought the Catholic 7 would devolve into that kind of situation. They thought that once we got that settled, we’d have a big fight over the money between the old and new schools and we wouldn’t have good cohesion between the newcomers and the core group. They thought UConn and Cincinnati, and maybe South Florida, wouldn’t buy into the new arrangement. And they have. UConn’s been one of our biggest supporters -- in private, too. People can’t see what goes on. Susan Herbst and Warde Manuel have been real champions of our effort."

"We have a really good, solid conference that can achieve some tremendous things if we do what we’re supposed to do. I wanted to make sure, back in those dark days, that this group of schools had a future. This is where they’re going to be. Realignment appears to be over. When things are going like this, you’ve just got to keep your head and take it one day at a time."

It's easy to forget that Louisville and Rutgers are actually bound to the AAC for two more years, though everyone -- including Aresco -- acknowledges that a negotiated agreement will be reached allowing them to leave before their required 27-month stay is over.

On Louisville being in the league for one more awkward season:

"I actually look at it in a positive way. I think it gives us a wind at our back, to have Louisville in for one more year, playing the good teams that we have, it’s going to make everybody better."

(on increased travel in the new league due to geography)

"With Olympic sports, not everybody plays the same sports. Olympic sports are more manageable than you think."

"UConn has Temple right down the road, it’ll have Navy right down the road, it’ll have Cincinnati not that far away. Then there are a cluster of schools where you can arrange scheduling. For football, it’s not a problem ... but with basketball, for instance, with the two Texas schools, two Florida schools, Memphis and Tulsa being close together, Memphis and Cincinnati not too far away. East Carolina is a little bit of an outlier, but not that bad. What we’re trying to do is figure out the twin visits, like the Pac-12 used to do and they might be going back to it."

"It’s funny, our footprint isn’t that different now than the Pac 12, if you look at all the way from Arizona up to Washington, down to southern California; if you look at the Big 10 now, from Nebraska, up to Minnesota, down to Rutgers and Maryland; from the tip of Florida all the way to Boston and Syracuse and Pittsburgh for the ACC. Those are significant distances they have to travel, for a number of schools."

(on AAC's potential strength in football)

"We think we’re closer to the other five. That’s how we feel, that’s how we’ve got to act. There’s no arrogance to that at all. That’s the last thing we are is arrogant. What we are is competitive, we know where we are, what we’ve been, the kind of teams we have."

"We think we’ve got the conference that can challenge those five. It’s our goal to be a challenger, to be a conference that’s talked about in the same breath as those schools. We understand we have a lot of work to do, and while we have really good schools with good histories and good tradition who play at a really high level, we don’t pretend to be the Big 10 or the SEC. Why would we? We understand what they are in terms of their branding and all. But we think we’re going to compete at a higher level, especially compared to some other conferences that we don’t necessarily think we have much in common with."

(on what Aresco, a Middletown, CT native and Xavier High grad, has heard from Connecticut friends about the new conference)

"It’s a mix, although for the most part, lately, it’s shifted to optimism. I think there was a great deal of skepticism before. I think losing the Big East name probably hit people pretty hard. But we’ve come up with a good name. I think there’s another factor here: I think UConn basketball will remain extremely strong, but UConn wants to also have a major football program, and I think it’s built a pretty darned good one over the years. I think Warde and Susan are focused on that, as well."



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