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Coaches’ futures dominate AAC title game buildup

Chances are, both coaches in Saturday's American Athletic Conference title game will be employed by a Power Five program in 2018.
Memphis coach Mike Norvell reportedly is being considered for the Arkansas vacancy. (Mark Humphrey | AP) TNMH112
Memphis coach Mike Norvell reportedly is being considered for the Arkansas vacancy. (Mark Humphrey | AP) TNMH112
Published Nov. 29, 2017

To the great delight of American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, the ABC broadcast team for Friday's USF-UCF instant classic didn't devote much air time to the buzz surrounding Knights coach Scott Frost's future.

"They didn't belabor it," Aresco said. "They mentioned it because it's a news item, but it was not the focus of the game. … I thought the commentators and the color analysts did a wonderful job with the game, and they did not overdo it on the coaching thing."

Another AAC showdown — this time the league championship game between UCF and Memphis — is set for an ABC audience Saturday. And in terms of finding a broadcast tailored to his preference, it seems unlikely Aresco can go 2-for-2.

Once again, a coaching subplot will hang over this contest, perhaps shrouding other significant story lines. Depending on which report you trust, Frost will be hired by Nebraska (his alma mater) at some point next week, or before the Spectrum Stadium parking lots clear Saturday.

Meantime, Memphis' Mike Norvell has been mentioned as a candidate for various jobs including Arkansas.

"It's frustrating," Aresco acknowledged on a conference call Monday.

"On the one hand, it's a credit to the coaches and to the league that they're in demand and that the (Power Five) schools want to hire them. That's a real positive; you want to have coaches like that in your league.

"The down side of that of course is, it does take away somewhat from the game and from what our tremendous players…are doing on the field."

Such is life in the Group of Five. Even Aresco's relentless push to have the AAC recognized as the nation's sixth power conference can't alter the fact the conference remains a springboard to the Power Five, which has more money (thanks in part to more lucrative TV contracts) to pay its coaches.

The winning coaches in the first two AAC title games — Houston's Tom Herman and Temple's Matt Rhule — now are coaching at Texas and Baylor, respectively.

"Until we become a (Power Six), until we generate more revenue with a (new) TV deal and can pay our coaches a bit more, we'll have a tough time necessarily keeping them when these P5s come calling," said Aresco, whose current TV deal (expiring in 2019) reportedly pays each AAC school around $2 million annually.

"It's something we just have to deal with and we will, and I hope it doesn't dominate the championship game on Saturday, because it should be a great game and we want the focus to be on the teams."


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