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AAC chief applauds USF’s non-conference schedule

Mike Aresco called two-for-one deals with Miami, Alabama a “coup” for the Bulls.
This Sept. 17, 2016 photo shows Michael Aresco, commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, speaking to reporters in the press box of Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field before an NCAA college football game between Connecticut and Virginia. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
This Sept. 17, 2016 photo shows Michael Aresco, commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, speaking to reporters in the press box of Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field before an NCAA college football game between Connecticut and Virginia. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Published May 30, 2019

While Michael Kelly's recent splash additions to USF's non-conference football schedule continue rankling many in Orlando, the applause continues growing nationally.

Count Mike Aresco among those clapping loudest.

The American Athletic Conference commissioner, who has held spring meetings with his athletic directors (and some presidents) outside Dallas the past two days, said Thursday that he commended Kelly’s recent two-for-one agreements with Miami and Alabama.

RELATED: USF strikes 2-for-1 football deal with Alabama

They go alongside a two-for-one with Florida hammered out before Kelly’s arrival, but renegotiated on Kelly’s watch so the Gators would come to Tampa first (in 2021).

“I thought what he’s done with his scheduling, his two-for-ones, has been terrific,” Aresco said in a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

“I love having Alabama in his building. I love having Miami and Florida. We’re the only conference that has those three teams to one of our buildings. I think it’s great for them, it’s a coup for them.”

Kelly’s recent deals with Miami and Alabama have agitated UCF’s fan base while eliciting a public reaction from Knights athletic director Danny White, who suggested such two-for-one agreements set an unfavorable precedent for a league aspiring to be considered the sixth power conference.

RELATED: Is UCF’s Danny White right to criticize USF’s Michael Kelly?

Aresco said he has spoken with White on the issue and suggested some of his comments may have been misinterpreted.

“Danny’s biggest concern was, you shouldn’t be doing them with everybody, and we don’t,” Aresco said. “And I don’t favor that. ... There might be a dozen or so programs that potentially you would want to do a two-for-one with, because it’s just a real coup to get them in your building.”

Aresco then noted several instances where two-for-ones ― or similar deals ― benefited AAC programs.

Temple, which rarely went home-and-home with Penn State when those teams played annually, topped the Nittany Lions, 27-10, in 2015.

The Owls’ two-for-one series with Notre Dame resulted in an ABC-televised contest in ’15 in Philadelphia, where the Irish escaped with a 24-20 win before a Lincoln Financial Field audience of 69,280.

MORE USF: Kickoff times announced for USF, Gators, Miami

Houston had a one-for-one with Oklahoma, although the 2016 contest in Houston was held at NRG Stadium and not on the Cougars’ campus. Houston upset the No. 3-ranked Sooners, 33-23.

“My feeling has been, if you don’t play these teams, then you can’t beat them, and if you can’t beat them then you can’t really be considered their equal. And we’ve beaten them, that’s the thing,” Aresco said. "We’ve had big-game win after big-game win against the P5, but you have to play them.

“I agree with Danny that it would be nice if we can get these one-and-ones; I think we’ve earned that by our performance. But the reality is, it’s gonna be hard to get them to do that. So sometimes you just have to do the two-for-ones if you want to get teams like that.”

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