AAC Unlikely to Expand...Unless

The AAC lost UConn and now has 11 teams for football, but it needs 12 to hold a championship game unless...

Houston...and the other remaining football teams in the American Athletic Conference, you may have a problem.

Here's why:

With UConn's official departure for the Big East Conference on ompeting in football.

NCAA by-laws state that any conference which holds a championship game (The AAC does) and is smaller than 12 teams MUST play a full round robin schedule.

The 10 team Big 12 (Yeah, I know, but the Big Ten has 14 teams) did that a few years ago and plays a 9-game round robin schedule and then matches its top two teams in a championship game.

The initial sentiment among AAC members, who will hold a conference call on Friday, is to follow that path.

The conference is just starting a new 12-year $1 billion television contract with ESPN, which boosts payoff for each team from $2 million per season to slightly under $ 7 million per team.

That amount was partially based on the AAC having a championship game in football.

For the AAC to meet the NCAA requirements, it would have to schedule an unprecedented 10 conference games per season. That is not likely to happen.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said on Thursday he was confident the NCAA would grant the AAC a waiver on that requirement, wondering why the NCAA would enforce a rule that would basically require the AAC potentially raiding another conference to get back to 12 teams.

Aresco also said that the AAC was not in a hurry to make any decision. ""We have a solid product,'' he said in a phone interview.""Look at UCF in football and what we have done in basketball. We could stay at 11 and be fine, which doesn't mean we won't look at all our options.''

Aresco makes a solid argument. The AAC is arguably the best Group of 5 conference in football and, aside from Villanova, the AAC is equal to the Big East in the depth of quality teams in men's basketball.

The quickest path for the AAC to get back to 12 teams would be to add one team in football only, similar to the arrangement Navy now has with the conference.

The two most attractive teams who have independent status in football are Army and BYU

. Army, which has been revived in the past few years with back to back double digit seasons, can survive and even thrive as an independent.

BYU may be the most logical choice. The Cougars have found a home in the West Coast Conference for their other sports and could easily become part of a Western Division of the AAC, which would include Memphis, Houston, Tulane, SMU, and Tulsa.

Navy could switch from West to East and join UCF, USF, Cincinnati, Temple and East Carolina.

Since only football is involved that switch could be made over the next few months in time for the 2020 season.

Right now, however, Aresco seems to feel there is no need to move too quickly, IF he can get the NCAA to grant a waiver on allowing 11 team conferences to hold a championship game without playing a full round robin schedule.

While the AAC was getting ready for its next move, the Big East and UConn were restarting their relationship which first began 40 years ago.

The unanswered question about where football lands remains unanswered.

The Huskies will have no home for football starting in 2020. The most logical quick fix would be to compete--at least for one-season as an independent, but even that will require lots of grunt work by UConn athletic director David Benedict.

Without the 8 AAC games, the Huskies have only four teams on their schedule in 2020: UMass, Maine, Illinois and Indiana.

Most FBS schedules for 2020 are already filled. Benedict will have to make deals with schools to find openings, schedule another FCS team (Maine is FCS) or schedule home and home games against a team in the same season.

Unless Army makes a move to join the AAC, count on Army being a Huskies opponent in 2020 since the Cadets have two slots open.

Group of 5 Conferences such as the Sunbelt, MAC and Conference USA all have schools with openings, which might not be a bad idea for UConn if the Huskies have visions of joining those conferences as football only members.

Still is not an easy task and the countdown for 2020 has already begun.

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Mark Blaudschun
EditorMark Blaudschun
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Mark Blaudschun
EditorMark Blaudschun
Mark Blaudschun
EditorMark Blaudschun