AAC commish: 'We have to be the next JetBlue or Southwest'
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, who probably exhaled deeper than anyone when the Big 12 announced Monday it's not expanding, spoke to reporters prior to USF's game Friday night against Temple. Here are some excerpts.
On the Big 12 not expanding (Eight AAC schools reportedly were finalists in the expansion process):
"I was talking to a person in the office today and I said to them, 'Doesn't it feel like it happened six months ago?' Obviously a weight was lifted from our shoulders. I am really glad it is over. I am glad that the conference is intact. That is terrific. Now we have a lot of work to do and a chance to do it. It looks like we will have some stability to get it done. We are reviewing that (Power Six) narrative."
On whether the AAC's television contract with ESPN (which runs through 2020) can be renegotiated:
"It can be if ESPN is willing to sit down with us. We are going to meet within the next two or three weeks to talk. ESPN has been great to us. ... The TV landscape is complex, it really is. We want to do something with ESPN and we think that they recognize our value. We are far more valuable than we were 3 1/2 years ago. It is not even close. It is night and day. We were in disarray, nobody knew what we had. Nobody knew what we were going to do. Three years now, you can see what we have done in terms of winning those big bowl games and having two top-10 teams (Houston in '15, UCF in '13) two of the last three years."
On how the Big 12 expansion hubbub indirectly benefited the AAC:
"At points it was tough on everyone but it really did shine a light on our schools. It spoke volumes about the fact that our schools were the ones that everybody looked at in terms of being in a (Power) Five. ... The truth is that it really gave us the publicity and attention. A lot of it was good because our schools are good schools that played well. Houston had that big game in the meantime against Oklahoma (a 33-23 Cougars victory), that was priceless publicity. We probably wouldn't have gotten that type of branding and recognition nationally any other way."
On the conference having to remain creative to distinguish itself in the Power Five era:
"We have to do things different. We have to be the next JetBlue or Southwest. We want to be a major carrier but we know we aren't Delta. We have to be realistic. I wouldn't be credible if I didn't realize that. What we have got is really committed administrators. That is what you need, committed people. ... Our guys have hired outstanding coaches. Look at whom we hired. We hired (Houston's) Tom Herman (from) Ohio State. We hired (SMU's) Chad Morris. ... You look at (Tulsa's) Phillip Montgomery who was the offensive coordinator at Baylor. Then there is the incredible hire of Scott Frost at UCF who turned the program around immediately. It seems whenever we hired one of these assistant coaches they pan out. Bob Diaco is doing an outstanding job rebuilding UConn. You look at Memphis hiring Mike Norvell. Then you have Willie Taggart here tonight doing a great job (at USF). This is the way we have to continue to do it. When you have administrators that know what they're doing and are hiring the right coaches, you don't need waterfalls in the locker room, you don't need the Taj Mahal. What you need are good facilities, you need good practice facilities. You need branding. You need good coaches."