No conference dodged a bullet from the Big 12’s decision to not expand quite like the American Athletic Conference. If the Big 12 was to expand, the ACC could have potentially lost Cincinnati and Houston, and possibly more with Connecticut and SMU among the other possibilities for the Big 12 expansion drama. The Big 12 announced it will move forward with its current 10-member lineup, seemingly putting the AAC at ease for now. With that being the case, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco can once again focus on pushing the idea of the AAC being considered the sixth power conference in the nation.
“Glad it’s over. It’s been a long, tough process for everyone,” Aresco said, according to Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle. “Now we really need to resume, reinforce and enhance our Power Six narrative.”
The AAC has been singing this tune since the old days of the Big East. Conference realignment and the formation of the College Football Playoff essentially left the AAC without a chair at the grown-ups table at Thanksgiving. Instead, the conference from having a guaranteed spot in the old BCS lineup to having to compete with the other conferences sitting at the kids table (Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt Conference). This has left the conference frustrated by not being considered in the same boat as the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, but it has become the reality of the conference realignment era.
The AAC felt pretty good seeing Houston knock off Florida State in the Peach Bowl last year, and the conference needs more signature moments like that to build its case, especially in the regular season. Regardless of what happens, Aresco and the AAC will continue to argyue they are indeed a power conference, although the numbers show the conference is far behind what the others have to offer (see: TV contracts). But Aresco is in a position where he needs to stump for his conference, and he has shown he is never going to shy away from boastStateing about what his conference has to offer.
“Our brand is better known and more appreciated nationally than ever before,” Aresco explained. That may be true,but nobody is going to confuse the conference with ACC any time soon.