1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

American Athletic Conference won’t seek replacement for UConn

Commissioner Mike Aresco says the league will forge ahead with 11 football-playing schools
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco delivers his state-of-the-league address Tuesday in Newport, R.I. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco delivers his state-of-the-league address Tuesday in Newport, R.I. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
Published Jul. 16

NEWPORT, R.I. ― During a sprawling state-of-the league address Tuesday morning, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco referenced Theodore Roosevelt, Shakespeare and even Moses.

But arguably the speech’s most notable statement was an Aresco original.

“We have no plans at this point to add a member to replace UConn,” he said.

That proclamation, coming after days of meetings with league athletic directors, confirmed what many had speculated in the wake of Connecticut’s recent move to the Big East: The AAC will forge ahead with 11 football-playing schools.

Even if it means abolishing division play.

“I’m all right with it,” USF coach Charlie Strong said, “because we can still play eight conference games and three to four non-conference games.”

Related: RELATED: Michael Kelly: Spring ground-breaking possible for USF Football Center

Aresco insisted the AAC remains a strong Power Six conference with 11 teams (a 12th, Wichita State, doesn’t have football), and wouldn’t raid another conference simply “for the sake of adding a team.”

A number of schools ― including Army, Boise State, UAB, Florida Atlantic and BYU ― were mentioned as possible candidates to join the AAC when news of UConn’s departure broke.

“Down the road, if there’s someone interested in us who could enhance our strength and brand, we would consider it,” Aresco told a ballroom full of reporters, players and coaches Tuesday at a Newport waterside resort.

“But I would reiterate what I said in numerous recent media interviews: We’re a powerful conference in both major sports and Olympic sports. We’re going to continue our Power Six campaign with renewed energy and determination.”

Aresco said the exit negotiations continue with UConn, which will play its final football season in the AAC this fall, then likely go independent (the Big East doesn’t include football) for the short term.

But he wouldn’t speculate how the loss of the Huskies ― who represent significant inventory from a men’s and women’s hoops standpoint ― will affect the AAC’s new media-rights deal with ESPN.

“The last thing I want to do is put ESPN on the spot,” he said.

Related: RELATED: USF’s Terrence Horne set to return from ACL injury

Aresco did acknowledge that the AAC will seek a waiver of an NCAA guideline that requires leagues with fewer than 12 teams to play a round-robin schedule in order to hold a conference title game. The waiver seems a formality, and Aresco insisted his league will continue holding a football championship contest.

“I’m confident and hopeful that we would be able to get (a waiver) if we wanted one,” Aresco said. “Because why would you force us to add a 12th team and raid another conference if we don’t want to, and we don’t want to upset the college football community.”

Knowing an 11-team league was a strong possibility, Aresco said his office recently began communication with the Big Ten, which had 11 teams (and no division play) for nearly 20 years when Penn State began play in that league in 1993.

A possibility, Aresco noted, is for each AAC team to have two common conference opponents and six rotating opponents annually.

“We’d have to obviously find permanent opponents; clearly you want USF and UCF playing every year just as Ohio State-Michigan have to play every year,” Aresco said. “So we’ll figure all that out if that’s the way we go. We haven’t decided yet.”

The only thing decisive at this point: The AAC is standing pat.

“That’s the message I want to send: We’re a powerful conference even with 11, we really are,” Aresco said.

“We’re very strong in (men’s basketball) as well. ... My goal here is to tamp down any of that speculation. It can sometimes be a real disservice to the college community.”

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.


  1. Clemson co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott (foreground) speak to the media in Fort Lauderdale prior to the 2015 Orange Bowl. [GASTON DE CARDENAS  |  AP]
    Many signs indicate the Bulls could be close to landing the program’s fifth head football coach.
  2. Running back DeeJay Dallas (13) and Miami will spend bowl season in Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
    Starting Dec. 20, there is almost a full month of couch potato fun ahead if you love college football.
  3. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, spent the 2012 season as Buccaneers receivers coach. He returns to Raymond James Stadium on New Year's Day, when the Golden Gophers face Auburn in the Outback Bowl. [STACY BENGS  |  AP]
    The Golden Gophers are making their first appearance in the Tampa game.
  4. UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) runs against USF's Greg Reaves and defensive back Nick Roberts during the first half of the Knights' 34-7 victory in Orlando on Nov. 29. [WILLIE J. ALLEN JR.  |  AP]
    The Thundering Herd make their second straight December trip to Tampa.
  5. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron celebrates after the Southeastern Conference championship against Georgia on in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. [JOHN AMIS  |  AP]
    LSU slides up to No. 1 in the final rankings of the season.
  6. USF freshman Kristyna Brabencova (22) scored 16 points in USF's 80-29 rout of Alabama State on Friday at the Yuengling Center. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times] [Joey Knight]
    The men top Dartmouth in the nightcap for a Bulls doubleheader sweep
  7. USF parted ways last weekend with coach Charlie Strong, who compiled a 21-16 record in three seasons. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The general consensus: Michael Kelly made the right move by parting ways with the Bulls coach
  8. USF fans continue to wait out athletic director Michael Kelly during his search for the program's fifth football coach. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    At last, we reveal the final four, and winner, of our 16-man Bulls coaching-search bracket.
  9. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and the Tigers face Georgia in the SEC Championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta. [MATTHEW HINTON  |  AP]
    Here are our picks for this week’s conference championships.
  10. Former USF players Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack talk on the sideline during a recent Bulls game at Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 12. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Don’t read much into the former USF quarterback’s refusal to discuss his former coach’s possible return to USF.