Aresco continues to lobby for AAC power

NEWPORT, R.I. – Commissioner Mike Aresco took the podium Tuesday at football media day and offered up his state of the American Athletic Conference speech heading into a new season. His tone could best be described as “defiant” and that’s the way Aresco summed it up.

“We as a conference take nothing for granted,” Aresco said near the end of his remarks, which lasted almost 30 minutes.  “We know we face challenges.  We move forward with optimism and great energy.  We do so knowing that our student‑athletes come first, that providing them a platform for growth and development, the highest level of competition, is paramount. If I sounded defiant at times today, it is because I was and I am.”

In the uncertain world of college athletics, Aresco couldn’t help but confront the issues facing the AAC in the league’s second season of existence.  With the NCAA governance redesign, talk of players unionizing, lawsuits against the NCAA, and restructuring that could result in the Power Five conferences (ACC , Big 10, SEC, Big 12 and Pac 10) grabbing autonomy and power from the remaining conferences, no one can predict what is in the future.
But Aresco continues to push for a position of power, alongside the other five conferences. In a way, “power” became a theme for this media day, when Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina were welcomed into the league.
“I will admit I do not care for Power Five designation,” Aresco said.  “We do not accept the notion that we’re not a power conference or this ‘have not’ tag that some people use.  We have resources.  We have enormous potential.
Make no mistake, we’ll remain an integral part of the FBS college football fabric.  We’ll always have naysayers.  We have far fewer now than before.  It’s our job now to prove them wrong as we did last year, as UCF did in the Fiesta Bowl, as we did in the basketball championships with UConn.”
The “have not” comment was a direct rebuke of SMU coach June Jones, who referred to the non-Group of Five conferences that way in a recent radio interview and said those teams should consider playing games in the spring, after the college season and NFL season, to avoid being “left behind.” The radical suggestion was shot down by the power conferences and Aresco. Jones issued a statement saying the comments were his own.
“Not being in one of these leagues creates unique challenges, and requires us to think out of the box,” Jones said. “My comments were an example of this, and, I hope, triggered others to do so as well.”
Asked about his comments again on Tuesday, Jones said, “This conference has a chance and has the leadership and has the direction to be one of the five basically.  I think that we’ve proven that really this year.  Obviously through the next two to three years, there’s going to be some more shake‑out on that.
“I’m very confident of where we stand as a conference, where we stand as a group of coaches.  At the same time there is a lot of ‘what ifs’ if it doesn’t work.  I prefer to focus more on what we’re doing right here.”
UConn coach Bob Diaco was asked if he believes in Aresco’s view of the Power Five.
“Power Six, that’s what I heard,” Diaco said, basically answering the question immediately.
Diaco then asked if reporters wanted to see how many times he could work the word “power” into his next statement.
“I opened my PowerBook, he said.
“It was  a powerful talk.
“I power walked this morning.”
No question about it. Diaco’s got the power.
Diaco, UConn’s first-year coach, can’t wait for practice to start after players report at the end of this week.
“Think about Saturday,” Diaco said. “I’ve never walked up those stairs. If you’ve ever been to the backside of the Burton Family Football Complex I’ve never walked up those stairs with the players to go to practice. If I look down the road until the end of August or September or October or November I am going trip over one of those stairs.”

 Diaco, hired in December, has been working tirelessly on changing the culture at UConn, recruiting and creating a positive attitude within the team.

“I’m definitely going to need to focus on those stairs,” he said. “I know it’s just imagery with humor in it but it’s a fact. Camp is going to intensely focus on a task with a collection of people that are there to intensely focus on a task are some of the most special moments ever in your life.. That’s what we do and that’s a big reason I can’t wait to sequester ourselves with the coaches and the team for the duration of the time.”




The Cincinnati Bearcats were named favorites to win the 2014 American Athletic Conference in a preseason poll released by the conference. Cincinnati received 17 of 30 first-place votes in balloting of media representatives. UCF, which went 8-0 in the AAC last year, finished second with seven first-place votes.

UConn was picked to finish in a tie for ninth place with newcomer Tulane.

Here’s the entire poll:

1. Cincinnati (17)        311

2. UCF (7)                     296

3. Houston (6)            268

4. East Carolina         262

5. SMU                         158

6. USF                          157

7. Memphis                133

8. Temple                   105

9, UConn                      98

10. Tulane                    98

11. Tulsa                       94



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