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Mike Aresco: AAC getting rid of division play

The league is seeking an NCAA waiver allowing it to hold a football title game with only 11 schools.
In this Feb. 13, 2017, file photo, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, left, talks with Connecticut athletic director David Benedict, right, before an NCAA college basketball game between UConn and South Carolina in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
In this Feb. 13, 2017, file photo, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, left, talks with Connecticut athletic director David Benedict, right, before an NCAA college basketball game between UConn and South Carolina in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File) [ JESSICA HILL | Associated Press ]
Published Aug. 27, 2019|Updated Aug. 27, 2019

During his annual state-of-the-league address six weeks ago in Newport, R.I., commissioner Mike Aresco strongly suggested the American Athletic Conference would abolish division play in football.

On Tuesday, any suggestion was supplanted by statement of fact. Speaking on an ESPN-affiliated Memphis radio station, Aresco said the AAC “definitely” will move forward without divisions starting in 2020.

At that point, the AAC will be at 11 football-playing schools. Connecticut formally moves to the Big East and its football team goes independent in ’20.

“As a matter of fact, we’ve already pretty much made that decision,” Aresco said on the Giannotto & Jeffrey show on 92.9-FM.

“And we’ve already started the waiver process with the NCAA to be able to play a championship game with 11 teams and not have to play a round-robin. We think obviously playing 10 games is out of the question for all sorts of reasons.”

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The waiver would release the AAC from an NCAA guideline that requires leagues with fewer than 12 teams to play a round-robin schedule ― where each team must play every other conference team ― in order to hold a conference title game.

“I think if anything, if we play with 11 teams ― which we plan to ― and we get a waiver and we play a championship game with the top two teams, that championship game might be better and more valuable than what we’ve had,” Aresco said.

“As you know, with division play...you never know what the division teams’ records are going to be.”

While reiterating his league has no immediate plans to replace UConn, Aresco didn’t dismiss the possibility of the AAC adding a 12th football-playing school down the road. Jettisoning a team to drop the league to 10 teams (like the Big 12) is out of the question.

“We would never do that,” Aresco said.

"We’re figuring out our schedules now. We talked to the Big Ten about how they did it all those years (when it had 11 teams) and we have to figure out the permanent opponents if any, the no-plays if any, how we do byes in November.

“There are a bunch of things to figure out, but we will figure it out.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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