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No conference title needed for New Year’s bowl? AAC chief likes idea

As it stands, the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champ makes a New Year’s Six bowl game
MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. (8) gets tackled by USF defensive end Kirk Livingstone (94) during the third quarter of the teams' clash November 23, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Mack and Co. had to rally from a 17-point halftime deficit the following weekend to defeat Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game.
MONICA HERNDON | Times UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. (8) gets tackled by USF defensive end Kirk Livingstone (94) during the third quarter of the teams' clash November 23, 2018 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Mack and Co. had to rally from a 17-point halftime deficit the following weekend to defeat Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game.
Published May 31, 2019

While convening with several American Athletic Conference administrators just outside Dallas the last two days, Commissioner Mike Aresco raised a question he hopes the league athletic directors will seriously contemplate.

If a Power Five team doesn’t have to win its conference to reach the College Football Playoff (see Alabama, 2017), why should a Group of Five team need a conference crown to play on New Year’s Day?

“It’s a debate worth having,” Aresco said.

Related: AAC chief applauds USF’s non-conference schedule

Under current CFP guidelines, the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion earns a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Aresco actually pushed for the G5 slot ― and begrudgingly accepted the stipulations ― several years ago, as the Big East and BCS were dissolving.

“As much as we didn’t like it, I needed to make sure we had a shot at New Year’s Day,” he said.

But as recent history has indicated, the top-ranked G5 conference champ may not be the best G5 team.

Case in point: last year’s AAC title game, where seventh-ranked UCF had to rally from a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat unranked Memphis.

“(The Knights) were No. (7) in the country, they had a great season,” Aresco said. “And if they had lost that game, they would not have been conference champion.”

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Aresco said his ADs will spend the next six weeks chewing on the idea of eliminating the conference-champ stipulation, then discuss it at the AAC Summer Kickoff and Media Days in Newport, R.I., in mid-July.

“Even if we decided to seek a change...we’d have to have a majority of the G5 conferences that would agree to this,” Aresco said. “I don’t know whether they would or not. The Power Five probably don’t really care.”

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